Kidney hands flame to Sexton to light up World Cup route

Irish coach drops fly-half O'Gara and makes three injury-enforced changes

Ireland, paragons of continuity since Declan Kidney succeeded Eddie O'Sullivan as head coach in the fall-out from a destructive Six Nations Championship in 2008, yesterday found themselves being railroaded into changes ahead of this weekend's meeting with England. Yet the most significant change of all – Jonathan Sexton for Ronan O'Gara at stand-off – was purely a matter of choice. It marked a passing of the flame at No 10 and lit up the road leading to next year's World Cup in New Zealand.

O'Gara has contributed more than 500 points to the Irish cause in Six Nations rugby, but his defensive frailties against the French in Paris last time out persuaded Kidney to back the bolder, more imaginative Sexton, despite his relative inexperience. The 24-year-old Dubliner would have started the tournament but for injury and has been on the coach's World Cup radar for some time, but given the importance of Saturday's contest no one would have died of shock had the vote gone to the man with 95 caps rather than the man with three.

Kidney, who coached O'Gara to considerable heights at Munster, made three further changes to his starting line-up, summoning the Leicester full-back Geordan Murphy for the injured Rob Kearney, recalling the Ulster hooker Rory Best for the suspended Jerry Flannery and reinstalling Donncha O'Callaghan at lock. O'Callaghan replaces Leo Cullen, who drops to the bench.

Murphy's reappearance in national colours is something of a gamble. He has played precious little serious rugby since suffering a shoulder injury in September, and had the weather forecast for the weekend been a little less end-of-the-worldish, Kidney might have backed the exciting Keith Earls in the No 15 position.

Explaining his choice of Sexton over O'Gara, the coach said: "We're blessed with two great outside-halves: one with a huge amount of experience, the other up-and-coming and yet to prove himself. I see this as an opportunity to give the younger man a go." If the newcomer brings the best of his passing game to bear England could find themselves in trouble. A back division featuring runners as dangerous as Earls, Tommy Bowe, Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll has plenty going for it.

The visitors look formidably strong in the loose-forward department, too. The open-side flanker David Wallace and the No 8 Jamie Heaslip were first-choice Test picks for the British and Irish Lions in South Africa last summer, and had the blind-side specialist Stephen Ferris stayed fit, he would have found himself mixing it with the Springboks, too.

"England are always strong: they're hard to break down and don't concede many tries," Kidney remarked. Martin Johnson's team will do well to achieve one of their shut-outs on Saturday.

News
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes