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Ireland fly-half Ronan O'Gara returns to face Italy

RBS Six Nations: Ireland v Italy
Venue: Croke Park Date: Saturday, 6 February Kick-off: 1430 GMT
Coverage: BBC One, HD, Red Button, Sport website, Radio 5 live sports extra and BBC Radio Ulster
Live text commentary on BBC Sport and mobile phones

Ireland record points scorer Ronan O'Gara of Munster replaces Leinster rival Jonathan Sexton in the team to face Italy
Ireland record points scorer Ronan O'Gara of Munster replaces Leinster rival Jonathan Sexton in the team to face Italy

Ireland's record points scorer Ronan O'Gara is back at fly-half for the opening match of the RBS Six Nations against Italy on Saturday.

Jonathan Sexton, who starred at number 10 in the November win over world champions South Africa, was ruled out because of a dead leg injury.

Leinster flanker Kevin McLaughlin is the only new cap, replacing injured Ulster star Stephen Ferris.

Andrew Trimble wins a place in the wing and Gordon D'Arcy is in at centre.


Trimble, who has been in sparking form for Ulster, is preferred to Keith Earls while D'Arcy has been picked ahead of Paddy Wallace to be Brian O'Driscoll's partner at centre.

Wallace is on the bench as cover for centre and fly-half, so Sexton, whose five penalties helped the Irish humble the Springboks in the autumn, is axed from the 22 altogether.

Ulster hooker Rory Best's inclusion as a replacement completes a remarkably quick comeback from neck surgery.

Best, who had not been expected to play rugby this season, was in the Ireland A side which lost to the England Saxons last Sunday.

Without the injured Ferris, a key performer in last year's first Grand Slam since 1948, Kidney went for 24-year-old McLaughlin ahead of fellow in-form Leinster back row Sean O'Brien.

Ferris sustained a knee injury while on Heineken Cup duty for Ulster against Bath 10 days ago and has not been risked with the crucial showdown against France looming on Saturday week.

"I would not say I am shocked. I felt like I had a chance coming into this week," said McLaughlin.

"It is a big step up for me this weekend but I will treat it like any other game, just get on with it and play my game on Saturday."

Ireland: R Kearney, T Bowe, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, A Trimble, R O'Gara, T O'Leary; C Healy, J Flannery, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, P'Connell, K McLaughlin, D Wallace, J Heaslip.
Replacements: R Best, T Court, L Cullen, S O'Brien, E Reddan, P Wallace, K Earls.

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see also
Kidney on Ireland's selection calls
02 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Trimble elated after Ireland call-up
02 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Keith Wood column
02 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Italy unchanged for Ireland match
04 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Irish Wolfhounds 34-19 Scotland A
05 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Best in Ireland Six Nations squad
19 Jan 10 |  Irish
Ireland 15-10 South Africa
28 Nov 09 |  Irish
O'Gara out as Sexton faces Boks
26 Nov 09 |  Irish
Jeremy Guscott's players to watch
02 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
RBS Six Nations launch day
29 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Video - 2009 Six Nations review
21 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Rugby union on the BBC
05 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union

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