Wallace at the centre of France plans - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Wallace at the centre of France plans

04/02/2009 06:57:36 AM Comments (0)

Paddy Wallace will start at inside centre for Ireland in their Six Nations opener against France on Saturday.

Wallace has excelled in that role for Ulster this season but most of his international career has been spent as understudy to Ireland's first-choice flyhalf, Ronan O'Gara, so his selection by head coach Declan Kidney was something of a surprise.

To accommodate Wallace in his first Six Nations line-up, Kidney has shifted Luke Fitzgerald out to the left wing while another Leinster back, Gordon D'Arcy, makes his return to the international stage as one of the replacements.

D'Arcy is fit again after breaking his arm in last year's Championship opener against Italy. But his form for Leinster has not been enough to earn him an immediate recall to the starting XV.

Wallace played alongside skipper Brian O'Driscoll in the Irish midfield in last year's Tests in Australia and New Zealand but was an unused replacement in Ireland's last match, a 17-3 win over Argentina in November.

Ospreys' Tommy Bowe starts on the right wing with Robert Kearney reverting to fullback at the expense of the experienced Geordan Murphy, who drops to the bench.

Munster duo Ronan O'Gara and Tomas O'Leary form the halfback pairing while the pack, featuring six Munster men, is unchanged from the one that overwhelmed the Pumas in November.

That victory meant Ireland retained their place in the top eight of world rugby's rankings, ensuring they would be seeded for the 2011 World Cup as well as bolstering optimism for the Six Nations campaign.

Ireland team:

Robert Kearney; Tommy Bowe, Brian O'Driscoll (capt.), Paddy Wallace, Luke Fitzgerald; Ronan O'Gara, Tomas O'Leary; Jamie Heaslip, David Wallace, Stephen Ferris; Paul O'Connell, Donncha O'Callaghan; John Hayes, Jerry Flannery, Marcus Horan.

Replacements: Rory Best, Tom Court, Malcolm O'Kelly, Denis Leamy, Peter Stringer, Gordon D'Arcy, Geordan Murphy.

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