Brian O’Driscoll will become the first Ireland player to play in four Rugby World Cup tournaments when he leads the team out against the USA on Sunday. Declan Kidney’s men are heavily favoured to get their Pool C campaign off to a winning start.
2011 RUGBY WORLD CUP – POOL C: Sunday, September 11
IRELAND v USA, Stadium Taranaki, New Plymouth, 6pm local time/7am Irish time (live RTÉ Two/Setanta Sports Ireland/UTV)
Team News: Ireland head coach Declan Kidney has announced the team and replacements for the opening Rugby World Cup Pool C match against the USA in New Plymouth.
The selected side contains nine Rugby World Cup debutants, including half-backs Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray. It will be Murray’s first start at Test level.
The 70-times capped Geordan Murphy will line out at full-back with Tommy Bowe and Keith Earls, two more tournament newcomers, completing the back-three.
Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy, who has recovered from a calf strain to win his 60th cap, form their regular centre partnership.
O’Driscoll is hoping to guide Ireland to an opening win in New Zealand, which would be his 50th victory in 77 Tests as team captain. He is also the first Irish player to play in four World Cups.
Tom Court replaces the injured Cian Healy (eye) at loosehead prop, joining Rory Best and Mike Ross in the front row, and Donncha O’Callaghan and Paul O’Connell link up once again in the second row.
The three starters in the back row are all World Cup debutants. Stephen Ferris and Jamie Heaslip have been retained from the last warm-up game, with openside flanker Shane Jennings coming in to make his first tournament start for Ireland.
Tony Buckley and Donnacha Ryan are standing by to make their World Cup bows as replacements. They are part of a bench which boasts a total of 305 caps.
Meanwhile, full-back Chris Wyles, who was an Aviva Premiership winner with Saracens last season, has failed to recover from an ankle injury in time for the encounter with Ireland.
Prop Mike MacDonald from Leeds Carnegie is set to make history by becoming the most-capped American of all time. MacDonald will win his 63rd cap for his country, and will honored by leading the Eagles onto the pitch at Stadium Taranaki.
The rest of the front row is made up of Shawn Pittman and hooker Phil Thiel. The experienced Hayden Smith and John van der Giessen are the locks and flanker Todd Clever will captain the side from the openside berth.
Vice-captain and scrum half Mike Petri will lead the back-line, with Roland Suniula starting at out-half. Andrew Suniula and Paul Emerick, who played with Ulster last season, have been paired together in the centres.
Takudzwa Ngwenya, who scores one of the World Cup’s most memorable tries in France four years ago, will take his position on the right wing, with James Paterson and Blaine Scully completing the back-three.
Former Dublin University captain and Ulster Ravens forward Scott LaValla has been included among the American replacements.
IRELAND: Geordan Murphy (Leicester Tigers); Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Brian O’Driscoll (UCD/Leinster) (capt), Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster); Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster); Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster), Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster), Shane Jennings (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster).
Replacements: Jerry Flannery (Shannon/Munster), Tony Buckley (Sale Sharks), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster), Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster).
USA: Blaine Scully (Unattached); Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz Olympique), Paul Emerick (Life University), Andrew Suniula (Chicago Griffins), James Paterson (Highlanders); Roland Suniula (Boston Rugby), Mike Petri (New York Athletic Club); Mike MacDonald (Leeds Carnegie), Phil Thiel (Life University), Shawn Pittman (London Welsh), John van der Giessen (Unattached), Hayden Smith (Saracens), Louis Stanfill (Unattached), Todd Clever (Suntory Sungoliath) (capt), Nic Johnson (Unattached).
Replacements: Chris Biller (San Francisco Golden Gate), Mate Moeakiola (Bobigny 93), Scott LaValla (Stade Francais), Pat Danahy (Life University), Tim Usasz (Nottingham RFC), Nese Malifa (Glendale), Colin Hawley (Olympic Club).
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Carlo Damasco (Italy)
Television Match Official: Graham Hughes (England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland to win: 1/200; Draw: 80/1; USA to win: 28/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Declan Kidney (Ireland) – “It will be a tough match. Eddie obviously knows the (Ireland) players very well, will know strengths, will know weaknesses.
“He’s a top class coach and this game will mean an awful lot to him. It’s been designated from a long time out.
“With the date that’s in it there’ll be a lot of emotion floating around and he’ll be a good man to keep a lid on that to use that in a good way too. I think (the selected team) is good enough to play a match for us and hopefully get a result.”
“The only points I’m interested in are the four on offer at the start of the game. We’re not thinking about bonus points, and we won’t be running over anybody.
“Bonus points might come into play, but if you win every match then bonus points aren’t an issue.”
Eddie O’Sullivan (USA) – “(Having knowledge of the Irish players) is a bit of a help. I can tell the players about the Irish guys in a bit more detail having worked with them, but we can’t get hung up on Ireland.
“I know Ireland are our opposition and it’s a strong Ireland team, but we have to focus on our own performance. You can get hung up on the opposition.
“But we have film anyway and it’s a common thing to do now, to scout the opposition. I’m sure (Ireland video analyst) Mervyn Murphy is burning the midnight oil profiling our players. You have to focus on your own game, and what we do is what’s important.”
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