10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
...Teenager Luke Fitzgerald at home in Ireland's 'red' training jersey...
NEW MEN UNITED: The arrival of Test debutants Luke Fitzgerald and Stephen Ferris has boosted the Manchester United-supporting contingent in the Irish dressing room, led by team captain Brian O'Driscoll.
Both Fitzgerald, 19, and the 21-year-old Ferris are committed Red Devils and whatever about the trio finding time to watch United's Premiership clash with Chelsea on Sunday, O'Driscoll cannot wait to see what Fitzgerald can offer on Ireland's right wing against the Pacific Islanders.
O'Driscoll, a long-time United fan since the days of Mark 'Sparky' Hughes, said: "It's a massively exciting time for Luke. The guy has only just turned 19 and he finds himself given a chance in a Test match. It's fully deserved, given his form so far this year.
"You would never think the guy is still a teenager. He plays very well, has a great attitude and is far more mature than you'd expect a 19-year-old to be. Even in the professional era he goes further than the distance required. Invariably he's been trying to kick off either foot, turning up early for training and leaving late."
And Girvan Dempsey, Ireland's full-back for Sunday, reports that Fitzgerald has even been tackling Paul O'Connell in training - "Luke's not afraid to get stuck in at training. It's a credit to him he's been able to handle everything (the call-up, the media attention) so well," admitted Dempsey.
WAR DANCE TO WHIP UP A STORM: Leading the Pacific Islanders in their traditional pre-match war dance, or 'Siva Tau', on Sunday will be the half-naked duo of Dominic Fonoti and Freddie Tuilagi, who will show off their tribal tattoos in full glory against the Lansdowne chill.
Both are proud Samoans and ex-Blues player Tuilagi, who is a chief back home in his village, divulged the lengths that he has gone to be tattooed. He said: "I was tattooed by hand for 12 days for three hours a day, using a boar's tooth dipped in water that had been mixed with the soot from a burnt coconut to make the ink."
Facing into the wintry Dublin conditions, Fonoti will gain courage and strength from Phillipians 4.13 - 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.'
The Fijian words to the Siva Tau are: "Get ready, get wild and prepare for battle. We are ready, we are ready. Samoa's are: "I am the warrior, we are the warriors from Samoa," while Tongan throats yell: "We are going to hit you, tackle you and drop you. And stay down man, we're the Pacific!"
...Paul O'Connell on the charge at Friday's training session, with his Munster team-mates Donncha O'Callaghan and John Hayes at close quarters...
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