Reddan out in cold as Ireland pick Stringer for French opener

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The Independent Online

The Wasps scrum-half Eoin Reddan is a surprise omission from Ireland's extended squad for the Six Nations opener against France a week today. Reddan lost his place in the starting line-up for the autumn series to Tomas O'Leary and was expected to compete with the Munster half-back throughout the championship.

Instead, Munster's second choice No 9 Peter Stringer has been preferred in the 27-strong party named yesterday – despite spending much of the season on the bench.

The coach Declan Kidney has otherwise stuck largely with Ireland's tried and tested as they seek to register a rare victory over France, a team they last beat in 2003.

Ulster's uncapped prop Tom Court is the only newcomer and he will provide front row cover for John Hayes and Marcus Horan from the bench.

Court can operate on either side of the scrum and his call-up is reward for a superb season that has seen him flourish under Ulster's new coaching regime led by Matt Williams.

Much of Ireland's team for the crucial opener at Croke Park pick themselves, but there are a few areas of debate. Full-back is up for grabs with Geordan Murphy and solid Girvan Dempsey adding yet another chapter to their rivalry for the No15 jersey.

Kidney could opt for the in-form Ron Kearney, but the dashing Leinster back looks set to continue on the wing with Tommy Bowe, while rookie Keith Earls remains an option.

Luke Fitzgerald should retain the inside centre duties ahead of Gordon D'Arcy and the half-back pairing of O'Leary and Ronan O'Gara is set in stone.

Up front the only area of debate is hooker and the back row, with the former a battle between Rory Best and Jerry Flannery.

Flannery is more of a nuisance around the pitch but set-piece specialist Best has impressed as Ulster captain and his leadership might be deemed essential against the always formidable French.

Munster's David Wallace is a shoo-in for the back row, but balance issues will have a say in the final make-up with two of Denis Leamy, Stephen Ferris, Jamie Heaslip and Alan Quinlan losing out.

Kidney names his starting line-up on Tuesday, when he will also unveil the Ireland A team to meet England A at Donnybrook on Friday night.