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Page last updated at 13:17 GMT, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Full-back Earls gets Ireland call

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Ireland coach Declan Kidney is not lookikng too far ahead with Canada in his sights this Saturday.

Venue: Thomond Park, Limerick Date: Saturday, 8 November Kick-off: 1715 GMT Coverage: Live on BBC2 NI, Radio Ulster, Live text commentary on BBC Sport website
Munster utility back Keith Earls
Keith Earls will make his debut for Ireland against Canada in Limerick

Munster's Keith Earls is the only new cap in the Ireland side to face Canada at Thomond Park on Saturday.

New coach Declan Kidney has named Earls at full-back while Ulster's Stephen Ferris will wear the number six jersey and Luke Fitzgerald is at centre.

Ospreys' Tommy Bowe is named on the right wing while Tony Buckley gets a chance to prove himself at tight-head in an all-Munster front five.

Shane Jennings is called up at openside with Jamie Heaslip at number eight.

Kidney has initially named eight replacements and will make a decision on who drop out on Thursday.

There will be experience and youth on the bench with uncapped Ryan Caldwell and Ulster team-mate Paddy Wallace initially included.

Earls, who has just turned 21, has been in electric form for Munster this season after failing to edge his way into the team last season.

Finding a place for the former Ireland Schools and under-20 star was Kidney's major problem after the player showed his prowess in a number of positions.

With the former St Munchin's College player wearing the number 15 jersey Rob Kearney, who starred for Ireland in that position last season, moved to the left wing.

Stephen Ferris
Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris comes in for his sixth cap

Luke Fitzgerald, another highly-prized youngster, joins his Leinster colleague and captain Brian O'Driscoll in midfield while the solid half-back pairing of Ronan O'Gara and Eoin Reddan continue where they left off last season.

Meanwhile, with 86-times capped John Hayes undoubtedly being rested for the New Zealand game the following week, Buckley receives a massive boost with his first start.

A giant lump of a man, Buckley has won nine caps as a replacement, but has only started three games for Munster this season.

With Denis Leamy still not up to speed following shoulder surgery during the summer, Ferris comes in for his sixth cap.

Ferris himself underwent surgery during the summer, but came back into the Ulster starting line-up last month and immediately made an impression.

Jerry Flannery gets the nod ahead of Ulster skipper Rory Best while the gnarled duo of Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan are in the engine room.

All told Munster have seven players in the international line-up with Leinster sporting five, Ulster one plus two exiles in Reddan and Bowe.

There is no place in the 23-man squad for Geordan Murphy, while old faithfuls like Hayes, Alan Quinlan, Shane Horgan, David Wallace and Peter Stringer are named on the initial replacements panel.

Keith Earls has trained very well since he has come in with us
Ireland coach Declan Kidney

Canada coach Kieran Crowley has named Glasgow Warriors prop Kevin Tkachuk in his XV to face Ireland.

The 40-times capped front row features in a team captained by hooker Pat Riordan, as the Canucks seek a first victory over their opponents.

Three National Division One players make the team - Bedford full-back James Pritchard, scrum-half Ed Fairhurst of Cornish Pirates and Plymouth Albion flanker Sean Michael Stephen.

Fly-half Matt Evans, who plays for Hartpury College in Gloucester, could make his international debut from the bench.

"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, whose side warmed up for the clash with a 21-13 win over Portugal on Saturday.

New cap Earls will be making his debut in a stadium that is just a few minutes from his house.

Much like his play, the 21-year-old Limerick man is undaunted by what lies ahead.

"It's an absolute dream come true to get my first cap for my country at a ground where I grew up," he said.

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.

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."


Ireland: Earls; Bowe, O'Driscoll, capt, Fitzgerald, Kearney; O'Gara, Reddan; Horan, Flannery, Buckley, O'Callaghan, O'Connell, Ferris, Jennings, Heaslip.
Replacements (from): R Best, Hayes, Caldwell, Quinlan, D Wallace, P Wallace, Stringer, Horgan.

Canada: Pritchard; Hearn, Keys, Smith, Mensah-Coker; Monro, Fairhurst; Tkachuk, Riordan, Thiel; Burak, Jackson; Stephen, Kleeberger, Carpenter.
Replacements: Pletch, Walsh, Hotson, Sinclair, Williams, Evans, Mackenzie.



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