...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 Devilsand whatever about the trio finding time to watch United's Premiershipclash with Chelsea on Sunday, O'Driscoll cannot wait to see whatFitzgerald can offer on Ireland's right wing against the PacificIslanders.
O'Driscoll, a long-time United fan since the days of Mark 'Sparky' Hughes, said: "It's a massively exciting time for Luke. Theguy has only just turned 19 and he finds himself given a chance in aTest 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 a19-year-old to be. Even in the professional era he goes further thanthe distance required. Invariably he's been trying to kick off eitherfoot, 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 intraining - "Luke's not afraid to get stuck in at training. It's acredit to him he's been able to handle everything (the call-up, themedia 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 backhome in his village, divulged the lengths that he has gone to betattooed. 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."
Facinginto the wintry Dublin conditions, Fonoti will gain courage andstrength from Phillipians 4.13 - 'I can do all things through Christwho strengthens me.'
The Fijian words to the Siva Tau are: "Get ready, get wild and preparefor 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...
- Ireland lock Paul O'Connell gives his view on Ulster back row Stephen Ferris who will make his Test debut against the Pacific Islanders this weekend
"There were times when this was not looking likely, including ayear ago when things were really rock bottom for me. I have had sometough times but you have to fight your way out of those black holes andlook at the areas you need to improve in. I took my chance with Ulsterat the end of last season and have not missed a game since."
- Ireland's 'new' out-half Paddy Wallace who,four years after his first senior call-up, will make his first startfor the men in green on Sunday. Last year he played most of his rugbyat club level for Ballymena and was almost lured over to Castres on aloan deal but it fell through
"It's been a great performance from Paul to get in this groupbecause he's played in a team that's performed very consistently - theywere quite unlucky to lose two Test matches to New Zealand. O'Connellhas come through, getting on top of players who are better known in theIrish team like Brian O'Driscoll, which is a great achievement."
- Australia's former World Cup-winning captain John Eales talks about Paul O'Connell's nomination for the IRB World Player of the Year award. Eales is chairman of the judging panel
NUMBERS GAME: 6 - The number of players in the Irish squad for Sunday's Test against the Islanders that played in 2003's 40-14 win over Samoa at Apia Park. They include Ronan O'Gara, who amassed 32 points (2 tries, 2 conversions, 5 penalties and a drop goal), Girvan Dempsey, Gordon D'Arcy, Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell and Simon Easterby.
18 - In their last three outings against Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, Ireland have accumulated 18 tries whilst conceding only six. Kevin Maggs (3), Ronan O'Gara, John Kelly, Guy Easterby and Geordan Murphy (2 each) have been in try-scoring form.
25 - Saturday, November the 25th, marks the 101st anniversary of the first ever Ireland-New Zealand Test match against Lansdowne Road. The All Blacks won 15-0 back then with centre Bob Deans scoring two tries.
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