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Centre Pairing Given Licence To Thrill

Centre Pairing Given Licence To Thrill

The Irish rugby public could be in for a treat on Tuesday night as Leinster’s Brian O’Driscoll and Luke Fitzgerald partner each other in Ireland’s midfield for the first time. Ireland’s interim head coach Michael Bradley is enthused by the prospect.

With the provinces having done their bit in securing the Magners League and Heineken Cup titles, the focus now switches to the national team as Michael Bradley takes the squad Down Under for Test matches against New Zealand (June 7) and Australia (June 14).

Ireland’s one and only warm-up game is tonight against a star-studded Barbarians side at Kingsholm (kick-off 7.45pm).

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With both Gordon D’Arcy and Andrew Trimble missing the summer tour due to injury, the fledging centre partnership of Brian O’Driscoll and Luke Fitzgerald could get more than one run-out over the next few weeks.

Although the 20-year-old Fitzgerald has been named at inside centre, Bradley explained that the Leinster duo will interchange and mix things up in Gloucester as they look to get the better of a Barbarians midfield that contains Australia’s Morgan Turinui and Springbok Jaco Pretorius.

“It’s fluid enough. Brian with Gordon D’Arcy worked right and left as well, so there’ll be no absolute structure on it,” Bradley said at the pre-match press conference.

“We’re quite excited about the potential of Luke playing in the centre but it’s going to take him a couple of games to ease into the position. It’s one area where we’ll get some kind of feedback in the next couple of weeks, for sure.”

O’Driscoll is looking forward to playing alongside the four times-capped Fitzgerald, who was recently named the Leinster Young Player of the Year after finishing as joint-top try scorer (six tries) in their Magners League-winning campaign.

The young Dubliner looked particularly lively as a replacement winger against both Wales and England in this year’s Six Nations, but it is in midfield where his international future could lie.

“You look at the two of us in the centre and it’s very exciting. I know from talking to him that Luke sees himself potentially as a centre,” Ireland’s long-time captain explained. 

“He’s the young talent coming through and it’s a matter of clicking. It’s his first outing (in the centre) so I don’t want to put pressure on him but he has so much talent and natural ability.

“He has bundles of confidence and backs his own ability – that’s half the battle. It’s about doing the basic things right because his own natural ability will look after the fancy things.

“There’s no pressure on him to try anything outrageous or make game-breaking runs. It’s our first game playing in the centre together and partnerships take a little time to build and gel but this could be the start of something. We’ll look on it that way.”