Ireland v Canada
Earls answers Ireland's call
November 4, 2008
Keith Earls (12) of Ireland A runs with the ball against Argentina A during the Plate Final of the Barclays Churchill Cup at Toyota Park on June 21, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois
Keith Earls played for Ireland A in June © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Keith Earls
Teams: Canada | Ireland

Munster fullback Keith Earls will make his Ireland debut on his home ground at Thomond Park as the sole debutant from the start against Canada on Saturday.

The 21-year-old Earls, who hails from Limerick, has dazzled for Munster this season, scoring four tries in six competitive outings and also making his Heineken cup debut.

Ireland coach Declan Kidney named a team for the opening Test in a crucial autumn series showing several new combinations at international level for the IRB world ranking match.

Earls is joined in the back three by Tommy Bowe and Robert Kearney. There is also a new midfield partnership in the team with Luke Fitzgerald and Irish Captain Brian O'Driscoll linking up in the centres.

In the pack, Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery and Tony Buckley are selected in the front row to start an international together for the first time.

Stephen Ferris is named as blindside flanker alongside Shane Jennings on the other flank and Jamie Heaslip continues where he left off during the summer tour by being named at No.8. Alan Quinlan and David Wallace, who had been suffering from an abscess on his tooth earlier in the week, are both selected in the 22 amongst the replacements.

Kidney has no qualms about putting Earls in for his first cap, insisting the former under-20 international deserves his shot at a jersey. "Keith's trained very well since he has come in with us. We watched him playing the games (for Munster) and I know what he is capable of," said the former Munster boss. We are going into a series of games now and the way he has trained I believe he deserves his chance in there.

"That's how I see it really. I fully understand why provinces pick different players at different times. They are doing their job as well too it's's what it is now, he deserves his go and he is getting his on Saturday."

The long-awaited teaming together of O'Driscoll and Fitzgerald in Ireland's midfield will occur against the Canadians. O'Driscoll, who has retained the Irish captaincy, has shaken off a knee ligament injury to join his Leinster colleague in a mouth-watering centre partnership.

The pair were due to don the number 12 and 13 shirts last May against the Barbarians but O'Driscoll was withdrawn from the team on the day of the match, due to the death of a close friend. And while it will be interesting to see how monster prop Tony Buckley fares on his first start for Ireland, and what damage a back row of Stephen Ferris, Shane Jennings and Jamie Heaslip can do, the focus at the team announcement was very much on Earls.

Asked what he will be looking for from his debutant full-back on Saturday, Kidney said, "Just Keith to keep doing what he has been doing. Keith has been working away now for two-and-a-half years.

"He's been in the limelight over the last few months, showing very well, but then he has been doing that too at training over the last year and a bit. The reason for doing that is, you do enough training so that when you come out then you just back yourself not to have to do anything special on days like next Saturday and just to keep doing what he is doing."

He added, "Keith looks like to be enjoying himself, he has a good few attributes but let's get him a game under his belt on Saturday and we start talking about that after Saturday. He's shown he's come into the line a good few times, his lines of running have been good, the speed he has shown has been good, his kicking game has been good.

"He's getting picked because he deserves to be picked and I'll try not to make it any harder for him by building it up more than that.''

The Corkman agreed there was 'a big temptation' for the Irish management to fit the experienced Girvan Dempsey into the backline, but that it was important to see how the newer players fare.

"You have a number of guys who have been showing well at full-back over a period of time and what we are trying to do is build a panel. Sometimes building a panel means you don't always get to play guys in their favoured position or even their best positions.

"It's just a case of getting guys out on the pitch. I think it's fair to say that all of those temptations were there but I'm looking forward to seeing how these guys go on Saturday. It's all about getting opportunities and seizing them to the best of their ability."

Canada coach Kieran Crowley has named Glasgow Warriors prop Kevin Tkachuk in his XV to face Ireland at Thomond Park on Saturday evening.

The 40-times capped front row features in a team captained by hooker Pat Riordan and bolstered by the arrival of a number of Canada's pro players from the UK and France.

After a tour opening 21-13 win over Portugal in Lisbon this past Saturday, Crowley are preparing for their first match under the new Experimental Law Variations and their first clash with Ireland since a 27-27 draw in Toronto in 2000.

"It is a big test of this team - that is why they are called Tests - and we have to see if the systems we are putting in place will stand up to what Ireland has to offer," said Crowley. "The new guys have been great - getting stuck right in - and understanding what we are trying to achieve."

The front row is heavy with experience with veteran Jon Thiel at tighthead packing down for his 34th internationals appearance. In the second row the big men of the Canadian forwards unit are getting the call with Cornish Pirate Mike Burak and Begles Bordeaux lock Josh Jackson starting.

In the back row Plymouth Albion's Sean Michael Stephen will look to wreak havoc on the Irish from the blind side flanker position alongside the highly mobile Adam Kleeberger who hits his 10th start. At No.8 - Brantford's Aaron Carpenter continues to impress after a busy afternoon against the Portuguese.

Pirates scrum-half Ed Fairhurst takes the No.9 jersey from its interim holder - the newly un-retired Morgan Williams, who had a solid 80 minutes against Los Lobos. Fairhurst will combine with Colorno's Ander Monro - who came out of the game against Portugal with a lower leg strain but is now fully on mended. It is Monro's 9th Canada appearance.

In the centre's Ryan Smith will play in his 39th test - the most in the Canadian backline. Simth will partner with Bryn Keys who win his third cap.

On the wing Justin Mensah Coker will make his for his 11th start. On the opposite wing Newfoundland's Ciarn Hearn wins his first start - making his progression in the 2008 remarkable with his debut in sevens - and his ascension for the Canada East squad in the North America Four.

Ireland: Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster); Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Brian O'Driscoll (UCD/Leinster, capt), Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster), Robert Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Ronan O'Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Eoin Reddan (London Wasps); Marcus Horan (Shannon/Munster), Jerry Flannery (Shannon/Munster), Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster), Donncha O'Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Paul O'Connell (Young Munster/Munster), Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster), Shane Jennings (St.Mary's College/Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster).

Replacements: Rory Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), John Hayes (Shannon/Munster), Alan Quinlan (Shannon/Munster), David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster), Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster), Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster), Shane Horgan (Boyne/Leinster)

Canada: James Pritchard (Bedford Blues), Ciaran Hearn (Castaway Wanderers), Bryn Keys (Velox Valhallians), Ryan Smith (Calgary Irish), Justin Mensah-Coker (Plymouth Albion), Ander Monro (Colorno), Ed Fairhurst (Cornish Pirates); Kevin Tkachuk (Glasgow Warriors), Pat Riordan (University of Victoria Vikings), Jon Thiel (Bayside Sharks), Mike Burak (Cornish Pirates), Josh Jackson (Bordeaux Begles), Sean Michael Stephen (Plymouth Albion), Adam Kleeberger University of Victoria Vikings), Aaron Carpenter (Brantford Harlequins).

Replacements: Mike Pletch (Velox Valhallians), Frank Walsh (Vandals RFC), Tyler Hotson (Eastern Suburbs), Jebb Sinclair (Castaway Wanderers), Morgan Williams James Bay Athletic Association), Matt Evans (Hartpury College), Phil Mackenzie (University of Victoria Vikings).

Referee: Christophe Berdos (France)

Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Carlo Damasco (Italy)
Television Match Official: Giulio de Santis (Italy)
Citing Commissioner: Ken Pattinson (England)


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