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McFadden to make debut for Ireland

02/02/2011 02:39:29 AM Comments (0)

Fergus McFadden is set to make his Ireland debut after being named in the starting side for the team's Six Nations Championship opener away to Italy in Rome on Saturday.

The 24-year-old Leinster centre has been drafted in at right wing by coach Declan Kidney, whose plans for the match at the Stadio Flaminio have been upset by several injuries.

"I feel my progress this season has been quite good," said McFadden after Kidney announced his team on Tuesday.

"Declan's backed me and I can't wait to go on Saturday.

"I want to do the basics well and if I get a one on one I like to back myself. I'll look to come off my wing."

McFadden's Leinster colleague Luke Fitzgerald starts a Test at full-back for the first time with Munster flyer Keith Earls completing the back three.

Meanwhile Tomas O'Leary returns at scrum-half after missing all of Ireland's November Tests with a hand injury.

But experienced backs Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble, Rob Kearney and Geordan Murphy are all currently sidelined.

Also missing through injury are back-rows Jamie Heaslip and Stephen Ferris.

In their absence Denis Leamy starts at blindside flanker with David Wallace and number eight Sean O'Brien, making his Championship debut, completing the back row.

The pack is boosted by the return of lock Paul O'Connell, the British and Irish Lions captain, who has not played international rugby since last year's Six Nations because of a groin problem.

Leinster prop Mike Ross is line for his first Championship start while Ulster's Rory Best returns at hooker.

Ireland, who will again be captained by veteran centre Brian O'Driscoll, have made nine changes to the side that beat Argentina 29-9 last time out.

That victory concluded a November series also featuring an Ireland win against Samoa but defeats by world champions South Africa and 2011 World Cup hosts New Zealand.

Ireland, who finished runners-up to Grand Slam champions France in last season's Six Nations, have wontheir last 14 Tests against Italy.

Ireland team:

Luke Fitzgerald; Fergus McFadden, Brian O'Driscoll (capt), Gordon D'Arcy, Keith Earls; Jonathan Sexton, Tomas O'Leary; Sean O'Brien, David Wallace, Denis Leamy; Paul O'Connell, Donncha O'Callaghan; Mike Ross, Rory Best, Cian Healy

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Tom Court, Leo Cullen, Shane Jennings, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O'Gara, Paddy Wallace

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