Ireland v France, Aviva Stadium, August 20
Ireland go for strength while France rotate
August 18, 2011
Brian O'Driscoll returns to the fray to bolster Ireland's World Cup preparations © Getty Images
Ireland centre Brian O'Driscoll will step up his Rugby World Cup preparations by leading his side into Saturday's clash with France in Dublin.
O'Driscoll will make his first appearance of the summer after recovering from the neck/shoulder injury that forced him to sit out the defeats to Scotland and France. The 32-year-old lines up at outside centre in what is virtually Ireland's strongest XV.
With Rob Kearney ruled out for one week because of a groin strain, Felix Jones makes his first start at fullback. Andrew Trimble, who has impressed over the last two weekends, retains his place on the right wing with Keith Earls lining up on the opposite wing. Fly-half Jonathan Sexton and scrum-half Tomas O'Leary have been recalled after sitting out the 19-12 defeat by France last Saturday.
In the pack, openside David Wallace makes his first appearance of the summer. Paul O'Connell and Jamie Heaslip will start after coming off the bench in Bordeaux, while the front row of Cian Healy, Rory Best and Mike Ross is given another run out. Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris makes a welcome return to the bench after winning his lengthy battle with a knee problem.
France have made 13 changes with wing Alexis Palisson and hooker Dimitri Szarzewski the only players to retain their place in the starting XV. Centre Aurelien Rougerie makes his long-awaited return from injury and will partner Fabrice Estebanez in midfield. Cedric Heyman starts at fullback with Maxime Medard taking the wing berth opposite Palisson.
David Skrela and Morgan Parra form a new-look half-back combination with the former expected to take over the kicking duties from Dimitri Yachvilli who moves onto the bench. Nicolas Mas is back in the front-row but there is no place for injured duo William Servat or Thomas Domingo with Jean Baptiste Poux starting at loose-head. Lionel Nallet will captain the side - taking over the duties from Thierry Dusautoir - while Fulgence Ouedraogo, Julien Bonnaire and Louis Picamoles all start in the back-row.
Ireland: F Jones (Munster); A Trimble (Ulster), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, capt), G D'Arcy (Leinster), K Earls (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), T O'Leary (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster), S O'Brien (Leinster), D Wallace (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster)
Replacements: J Flannery (Munster), T Court (Ulster), M McCarthy (Connacht), S Ferris (Ulster), E Reddan (Leinster), R O'Gara (Munster), L Fitzgerald (Leinster)
France: Cedric Heymans (Bayonne); Maxime Medard (Toulouse), Aurelien Rougerie (Clermont), Fabrice Estebanez (Racing-Metro), Alexis Palisson (Brive); David Skrela (Clermont), Morgan Parra (Clermont); Julien Bonnaire (Clermont), Louis Picamoles (Toulouse), Fulgence Ouedraogo (Montpellier); Lionel Nallet (Racing-Metro, capt), Pascal Pape (Stade Francais); Nicolas Mas (Perpignan), Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Francais), Jean-Baptiste Poux (Toulouse).
Replacements: Guilhem Guirado (Perpignan), Fabien Barcella (Biarritz), Julien Pierre (Clermont), Raphael Lakafia (Biarritz), Dimitri Yachvili (Biarritz), Francois Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), Vincent Clerc (Toulouse), Luc Ducalcon (Castres).
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Tim Hayes(Wales)
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