The IRFU confirmed on Wednesday that GUINNESS Ireland will be sponsoring this month's three-match Test Series against South Africa, Australia and the Pacific Islands.
Membersof the extended 32-man Ireland squad arriving for training at St.Gerard's School in Bray on Monday. IrishRugby.ie's betting partners Paddy Power have Eddie O'Sullivan's men currently priced at 15/8 to win all three of their Autumn internationals.
Ireland's video analyst Mervyn Murphy getsfootage of the session at St. Gerard's. The former Connacht centre, whowas capped five times for Ireland's 'A' team, is also the assistantbacks coach with AIB League Division One outfit Galwegians.
Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan discusses tactics with his captain Brian O'Driscoll, whosustained a slight ankle injury in training on Tuesday but is expectedto be fit for the South African Test match on Saturday week. The teamand replacements for that tie will be announced next Tuesday.
Leinster's teenage winger Luke Fitzgerald watcheson at training. The 19-year-old, who failed to make the cut for theSouth African game, should be available for his province's MagnersLeague clash with the Dragons on Saturday (Donnybrook, kick-off 7.30pm).
Fitzgerald gets ready to run through a passing drill alongside Ulster's Paddy Wallace and Bryan Young. Thelatter two players have both been included in O'Sullivan's squad forthe South African game. Young's brother Bob, a talented lock forwardwho has lined out with Ulster 'A', is captain of Ballymena this season.
Munster and Ireland team-mates Donncha O'Callaghan and Peter Stringer sharea joke at training. The 27-year-old O'Callaghan has 27 Ireland caps tohis name, but only ten of those have been as a starter.
Hehas scored three tries in his last ten Heineken Cup appearances forMunster, including recent efforts against Leicester Tigers and Bourgoin.
Denis Leamy, anotherof Ireland's Munster contingent, started all 11 of Ireland'sinternationals last season, making the number 8 position his own. Hisonly try to date came in last March's Triple Crown-clinching win overEngland at Twickenham.
Leinster's Jamie Heaslip willbe hopeful of challenging Denis Leamy for the number 8 spot, on theback of a number of barnstorming displays for his province and theIreland 'A' team. But the Kildare man has been excluded from the Irishsquad for the South African game, with David Wallace, Neil Best, SimonEasterby and Leamy to battle it out for the back row positions.
Leinster full-back Girvan Dempsey injovial mood at training. The 31-year-old celebrated his 50th HeinekenCup cap in style with two tries against Edinburgh last Sunday, but hisscores failed to prevent the province from going down 25-24 to thehosts.
Dempsey'scap in last June's Test match defeat to Australia marked his firststart for Ireland since the previous summer's tour to Japan. TheTerenure College clubman's caps tally stands at 66.
Ulster back row Stephen Ferris isanother first-cap hopeful who has been chopped for the South Africangame. The 21-year-old will hope to figure in the later Tests againstAustralia and the Pacific Islands.
TheDungannon clubman will be ready if his country calls on him. Havingrecovered from minor surgery on his ankle during the summer, he saidrecently: "I feel on top of my game at the minute. Full tilt. Eventhough I was wrecked after 65 minutes against Toulouse, we've gotpeople on the (Ulster) bench who can come on and do a good job.
"That's all the coaches ask for, to empty the tank in big games."
Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll satout Monday's training session in Bray. The Leinster centre damaged hisankle on Tuesday, but is expected to be fit to lead out Ireland for thefirst of their three Autumn internationals on Saturday week.
Lookingahead to the Series, O'Driscoll said: "It's exciting times knowing thatyou're going to be playing for one of the last times at Lansdowne Road.Having South Africa and Australia, in particular, visiting Lansdowne isgoing to be enormous for us. It's a great barometer for us as to seethe improvement of the Irish team and where we rate against theSouthern Hemisphere sides."
Since his appointment as Irish coach in November 2001, Eddie O'Sullivan has overseen 38 wins in 57 Test matches for the men in green.
**All photos by Dan Sheridan of Inpho Photography**
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