DUBLIN (AP) — Flanker Peter O'Mahony and winger Craig Gilroy were preferred ahead of Chris Henry and Keith Earls by Ireland for their Six Nations rugby opener against defending champion Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
O'Mahony and Gilroy kept their spots on Tuesday in the positions of greatest debate for coach Declan Kidney, as regulars became available again following injuries. Those included hooker Rory Best, flanker Sean O'Brien, center Brian O'Driscoll and fullback Rob Kearney. All four missed the autumn tests but were welcomed back by Kidney in the only changes following the 46-24 win over Argentina in November.
Best was in for the injured Richardt Strauss, and O'Brien was on the openside flank. O'Mahony stayed beside No. 8 and new captain Jame Heaslip, and Henry was demoted to the reserves. "We felt that in terms of a mix in the back row this was the best combination, but there was certainly plenty to talk about following Chris' performances in the autumn," Kidney said.
O'Driscoll, not the captain for the first time in nine years, and Gordon D'Arcy will resume their midfield partnership for a world record 48th test. Kearney's spot was assured, making Kidney move Gilroy to the right wing after his try-scoring debut against the Pumas, and Simon Zebo to the left side. Earls was placed in the reserves and Fergus McFadden left out of the matchday 23.
"It was a tight call because there's so much competition," Kidney said. "Fergus McFadden and Keith Earls have been playing well, so it's testament to the way Craig and Simon have been playing that they're selected."
Ireland has lost its three tests to Wales.
Wales: Rob Kearney, Craig Gilroy, Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy, Simon Zebo, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip (captain), Sean O'Brien, Peter O'Mahony, Donnacha Ryan, Mike McCarthy, Mike Ross, Rory Best, Cian Healy. Reserves: Sean Cronin, David Kilcoyne, Declan Fitzpatrick, Donncha O'Callaghan, Chris Henry, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O'Gara, Keith Earls.