Ulster winger, Andrew Trimble, rightfully returns to the Ireland starting side for today’s second Test against the All Blacks in Christchurch.
He replaces Munster new boy, Simon Zebo, who failed to impress on his debut in last week’s 42-10 drubbing by the reigning World champions in Auckland.
Zebo is dropped to the bench, but Ireland coach, Declan Kidney, keeps faith with Leinster winger, Fergus McFadden on the other flank, even though he too gave an average display.
Trimble will be keen to make an impression on his return to the side, but will need to lift his game after a couple of ‘quiet’ performances for his Province in the latter stages of the Heineken Cup.
But key to that will be getting ball to take on New Zealand on the fringes, and the Irish will be looking for a massive improvement on last week’s game.
Ulster hooker, Rory Best, who was one of the big performers in Auckland, is retained in the starting XV along with lock, Dan Tuohy, who will be keen to really show his true potential this morning.
Tuohy will against form the engine room partnership with Donnacha Ryan, Kidney emphasising that the former’s proficiency at the lineout was the primary reason why Donncha O’Callaghan remains on the replacement bench.
Mike Ross has passed a fitness test, along with fellow Leinster prop, Cian Healy, to take their places in the front row along side Best which means slight disappointment for Ulster tighthead, Declan Fitzpatrick.
He made his international debut last week, performed well but did suffer an injury late in the game which had given the Irish some concern, given that Healy and Ross were also doubtful at that point.
Fitzpatrick has also passed a fitness test but yields to the more experienced Ross at this level. However, memories of Ross’s display against England in the Six Nations Championship in March are not far from the mind, and the Leinster man will have his work cut out to impress against the All Blacks.
In all Kidney selected 10 Leinster players in the side.
The other change sees Kevin McLaughlin come in for Peter O’Mahony at blindside flanker, while Gordon D’Arcy is given a start in the centre for the injured Keith Earls – which is not the signs of an Irish side being developed.
The one big surprise was Kidney’s decision not to go with Eoin Reddan at scrumhalf given his decision to make use of most the Heineken Cup winning side connection..
He resisted the temptation to use the Leinster halfbacks – Jonathan Sexton again starts at outhalf – and instead opted for Conor Murray again, in spite of the Munster player’s poor performance last week.
Kidney admitted Reddan was unfortunate to miss out on elevation to the starting role, but he also added that the player’s provincial allegiances did not come into his team decisions!
The return of McLaughlin to the back row will be crucial as his ball winning and carrying ability – something badly missing last week with Ulster blindside Stephen Ferris injured – is a huge boost.
McLaughlin has come back well from an ankle injury earlier in the year and his coach at Leinster, Joe Schmidt, has described him as a “massive player” for the province.
The Dubliner stepped up for his side in the final victory over Ulster and did a lot of grunt work at the breakdown, which allowed Sean O’Brien to make damaging up-field breaks.
Kidney admitted: “It was a close call between Kevin and Peter O’Mahony. It is about freshening it up a bit but the fact that Kevin will be part of a back row unit [he has been in] many times before helps.”
He added: “Usually a back row will plunder well if the front row are doing well ahead of them.”
There was disappointment for Ulster centre, Darren Cave, when he was omitted from the replacements. His cameo role last week off the bench had failed to impress Kidney.