Keith Earls returns for Ireland clash with France

 

Keith Earls has been restored at outside centre for Ireland's RBS 6 Nations clash with France in Paris on Saturday night.

Earls was named in the starting XV for last weekend's 23-21 defeat by Wales only to be withdrawn when his new-born baby girl was admitted into hospital with an unspecified illness.

The 24-year-old Munster back returned to the Irish camp at the start of the week and has replaced Fergus McFadden in the number 13 jersey.

McFadden drops to the bench with David Kearney losing his spot among the replacements.

Coach Declan Kidney has kept faith with half-backs Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray while Stephen Ferris continues at blindside flanker after yesterday being cleared by a disciplinary hearing of tip-tackling Wales lock Ian Evans.

The return of Earls is the solitary change to the side toppled by Wales in a disappointing championship opener that has cranked up the pressure on Kidney.

"Keith's been bubbling away since he's been back with us and has trained well. It was tough on Fergus to lose out," Kidney said.

Ireland have triumphed in Paris just once since 1972 and have beaten bogey team France only once in 12 meetings at all venues dating back to 2003.

Defeat would conclude any lingering title aspirations after just two rounds and leave Kidney with some difficult questions to answer.

"There's a lot we have to improve on. Some of the silly errors we made against Wales we must cut out," captain Paul O'Connell said.

"Against France away from home you need to start well. It's frustrating that I haven't beaten France in Paris, but we have a team that can do it."

Ireland team to face France at the Stade de France, Paris, on Saturday, February 11 (kick-off 2000 GMT):

R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), K Earls (Munster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster, capt), S Ferris (Ulster), S O'Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster).

Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), T Court (Ulster), D Ryan (Munster), P O'Mahony (Munster), E Reddan (Leinster), R O'Gara (Munster), F McFadden (Leinster).

PA

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