...Outside the team hotel in Killiney, Ireland's new caps Stephen Ferris, Luke Fitzgerald and Jamie Heaslip pose for the cameras with one-cap rookie Paddy Wallace...
BERDOS BACK AT LANSDOWNE: He left Dublin with a sore head on his lastvisit, and even that had nothing to do with alcohol consumption. Hoping for happier memories this time around, Frenchreferee Christophe Berdos will be back at Lansdowne Road this weekend to take chargeof the third and final Guinness Autumn Test match.
The 36-year-old's first outing at the home of Irish rugby endedprematurely last month. He was the man in the middle for Leinster'sHeineken Cup clash with Gloucester and a nasty collision with formerWallaby Owen Finegan gave him a head wound which required Eric Gauzinsto assume whistleblowing duties.
Leinster fans will remember Berdos for sin-binning lock Malcolm O'Kellyduring the second half of that game, but some of the Pacific Islanders'contingent will also be familiar with the Gallic official - he refereedSamoa's 36-0 victory over Tonga in Gosforth in July.
Born in the rugby-mad town of Tarbes in the Hautes Pyrinies, Berdos hasbeen refereeing since the age of 18. He gave up playing rugby becauseof a series of shoulder injuries.
Voted France's Best Young Referee in 1994, he was promoted to the IRB's top panel of 20 referees this year.
O'CONNOR TO FACE THE SPRINGBOKS: Wasps flanker Johnny O'Connor is theonly Irish player selected in Bob Dwyer's World XV squad for theirone-off fixture against South Africa on Sunday week.
December 3 will see Dwyer's invitational side facing the Springboks atthe Walkers Stadium in Leicester (kick-off 3pm). O'Connor's club colleague LawrenceDallaglio will captain the World XV.
It is the 'Boks' final game on their 2006 European tour, whichcelebrated the 100th anniversary of South African rugby's first tour tothe continent.
Having fought his way back from the nasty neck injury he sustained inlast season's Powergen Cup final, O'Connor has played three times forWasps in recent weeks and his return to fitness only adds to Ireland'scurrent embarrassement of riches in the back row.
The 26-year-old Galway man's last cap for Ireland was as a replacement in March's Triple Crown-clinching win over England.
WORLD XV SQUAD: Backs - Justin Marshall (Ospreys, New Zealand, 81caps), Gareth Cooper (Newport Gwent Dragons, Wales, 32), ThomasCastaignede (Saracens, France, 52), Andy Farrell (Saracens, (GreatBritain/England Rugby League), Ben Tune (Queensland Reds, Australia,46), Ryan Cross (Western Force, Australia Rugby League), Gomez Cora(Lomas Athletic (URBA, Argentina, 4), Scott Staniforth (Western Force,Australia, 5), Gaffie du Toit (Cheetahs, South Africa, 14), ThinusDelport (Worcester Warriors, South Africa, 18).
Forwards - Nic Henderson (ACT Brumbies, Australia, 3 caps), Dave Hewett(Edinburgh Gunners, Scotland, 22), Cobus Visagie (Saracens, SouthAfrica, 29), Vernet Basualdo (Asociacion Alumni, Argentina, 3), FabioOngaro (Saracens, Italy, 44), Simon Shaw (London Wasps, England, 28),Alister Campbell (ACT Brumbies, Australia, 3), Michael Owen (Newport
...Dungannon and Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris throws a pass out at Wednesday's training session in Bray...
SAY WHAT?: "Paul O'Connell came back after a workout in the gymyesterday and said: 'did anyone see the weights that that fella Ferriswas lifting?'
"He spoke about Stephen's capacity to lift phenomenal weights, sayingthat he wasn't even concentrating on weight but more the technique thatgoes with being able to do it. That shows he has put in the work andthat doesn't come overnight.
"He has started young, and he appears to know what he wants around thepitch. He's also quite vocal which is great because it's unusual for ayoung guy coming into the squad to be like that."
- Team captain Brian O'Driscoll confirms the favourable firstimpression that debutant flanker Stephen Ferris has made with the Irishsquad
"I think they're pretty classical Pacific Islanders. They're veryphysical and they like playing with the ball in hand, with the ball infront of them.
"If you look at the game against Scotland, they didn't get off to avery good start. Scotland did - the got off to a flyer - and probablyrelaxed a bit in the second half. Suddenly, Scotland were nearly reeledin. These guys can create tries out of nothing - a soft shoulder here,half an offload there and suddenly there are a few of them through agap and you're chasing them down from 60 metres."
- Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan on the threat the fast-breaking Pacific Islanders will pose to his team on Sunday
"What we are seeing is an Irish team that is really maturing. A lot ofthe players have been there for a while now under Eddie (O'Sullivan).They are evolving. They are playing a fantastic game with a solid setpiece. They have some world class players.
"They play it wide and they mix it up very well, like we saw againstthe Aussies in the rain. On form, they are certainly the second bestteam after New Zealand at the moment."
- Pacific Islanders coach Pat Lam gives his opinion on the current Irish team
PREVIOUS MATCHES AGAINST PACIFIC ISLAND NATIONS:
June 2003 - Samoa 14 Ireland 40, Apia Park
June 2003 - Tonga 19 Ireland 40, Nuku A'lofa, Teufaiva
November 2002 - Ireland 64 Fiji 17, Lansdowne Road
November 2001 - Ireland 35 Samoa 8, Lansdowne Road
November 1996 - Ireland 25 Samoa 40, Lansdowne Road
November 1995 - Ireland 44 Fiji 8, Lansdowne Road
October 1988 - Ireland 49 Samoa 22, Lansdowne Road
June 1987 - RWC - Ireland 32 Tonga 9, Ballymore, Brisbane
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