O'Leary an injury doubt as Ireland seek to repay coach's faith

It remains to be seen whether Declan Kidney is suffering from a bad side but as Ireland prepare for the visit of France to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin tomorrow, after the painfully hard job of beating Italy in Rome last Saturday, their head coach does have a pivotal player afflicted with a bad back.

The Munster scrum-half Tomas O'Leary is struggling to overcome a back complaint and his provincial team-mate Peter Stringer has been called up as cover.

"Tomas has had a stiff back, which has not sufficiently improved over the course of the week," Paul McNaughton, Ireland's team manager, reported yesterday.

"We felt it was prudent to call up Peter. Tomas is not ruled out of the game, but we will wait and see how he progresses over the next 48 hours before making any decisions on changes to the match-day 22."

If O'Leary does fail to make it, Ireland will field two changes to the XV who snatched a 13-11 victory from the jaws of a 10-11 scoreline in the final five minutes in Rome last weekend.

"Sometimes you need to back your players," Kidney said, having resisted concerted calls for major changes. "After the way they went about their business, that's what I'm doing."

France have made just the one change to their side in the wake of their 34-21 winning start against Scotland in Paris last Saturday, with Clément Poitrenaud filling the full-back berth left vacant by Damien Traille's switch to inside centre to replace the injured Maxime Mermoz.

Although the defending Six Nations champions returned to free-flowing form in their opener, Poitrenaud warned against expectations of another counter-attacking feast.

"People should not count on me to run every ball that comes to me," the Toulouse player said. "It is imperative that we don't focus solely on running it and to realise that we will have to kick the ball as well."

Ireland: L Fitzgerald; F McFadden, B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy, K Earls; J Sexton, T O'Leary; C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell, S O'Brien, D Wallace, J Heaslip.

Replacements: S Cronin, T Court, L Cullen, D Leamy, E Reddan, R O'Gara, P Wallace.

France: C Poitrenaud; Y Huget, A Rougerie, D Traille, M Medard; F Trinh-Duc, M Parra; T Domingo, W Servat, N Mas, J Pierre, L Nallet, T Dusautoir (capt), J Bonnaire, I Harinordoquy. Replacements: G Guirado, S Marconnet, J Thion, S Chabal, D Yachvili, Y Jauzion, V Clerc.

Referee: D Pearson (England).

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