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Ireland Team Selected For First Test

Ireland Team Selected For First Test

Ulster flanker Neil Best has been named in the Ireland team for Saturday’s first Test against New Zealand (Waikato Stadium, 8.35am Irish time).

…Neil Best…

Ulster flanker Neil Best has been named in the Ireland team for Saturday’s first Test against New Zealand (Waikato Stadium, 8.35am Irish time).

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Best comes in on the blindside of the scrum for his third cap, replacing the injured Simon Easterby. He made his debut as a replacement against the All Blacks last November.

That switch is one of two changes to the side that started Ireland’s last outing – the Triple Crown win over England in March. Easterby, who has not played since April’s Powergen Cup final, and lock Malcolm O’Kelly (groin) are the absentees.

Donncha O’Callaghan takes O’Kelly’s place to partner his Munster team mate Paul O’Connell in the second row. It will be O’Callaghan’s 25th cap for his country. O’Connell has shaken off an ankle injury to start.

Flanker Best’s provincial colleagues Bryan Young and Isaac Boss – the only uncapped players in the 22-man squad – have been included as the replacement prop and scrum half respectively.

Boss was born in New Zealand, but qualifies for Ireland by virtue of his County Antrim-born grandmother.

Leinster duo Keith Gleeson and Denis Hickie have both earned recalls to the bench – flanker Gleeson has not played for Ireland since March 2004, whilst winger Hickie, whose 25-try haul has him second on the all-time list, has been injured or out in favour since the end of the 2005 RBS 6 Nations.

Since slipping to defeats at the hands of New Zealand and Australia at the start of the season, Eddie O’Sullivan’s men have won five of their last six Test matches with February’s loss to France being the only blip.

Ireland, captained by Brian O’Driscoll for the 28th time, will be searching for their first ever victory over the All Blacks at the weekend – 1973’s 10-all draw at Lansdowne Road was the closest any Irish side has come to toppling the Kiwis in 18 Test matches, stretching back to 1905.

The Irish line-up for Saturday’s encounter includes nine players – Geordan Murphy, Shane Horgan, Gordon D’Arcy, Ronan O’Gara, Peter Stringer, Marcus Horan, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan and Denis Leamy – who started November’s 45-7 defeat to the All Blacks in Dublin.

IRELAND TEAM AND REPLACEMENTS (v New Zealand, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, Saturday, June 10):

15 – Geordan Murphy (Leicester Tigers) 39 caps
14 – Shane Horgan (Lansdowne/Leinster) 45
13 – Brian O’Driscoll (Blackrock College/Leinster) (captain) 64
12 – Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster) 20
11 – Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster) 6
10 – Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster) 60
9 – Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster) 66
1 – Marcus Horan (Shannon/Munster) 37
2 – Jerry Flannery (Shannon/Munster) 6
3 – John Hayes (Bruff/Munster) 62
4 – Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster) 24
5 – Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster) 33
6 – Neil Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) 2
7 – David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster) 27
8 – Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster) 11


16 – Rory Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) 3
17 – Bryan Young (Ballymena/Ulster) 0
18 – Mick O’Driscoll (Cork Constitution/Munster) 4
19 – Keith Gleeson (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 23
20 – Isaac Boss (Ballymena/Ulster) 0
21 – Denis Hickie (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 51
22 – Girvan Dempsey (Terenure College/Leinster) 63

Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Touch Judges: Matt Goddard, George Ayoub (both Australia)

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