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Page last updated at 13:11 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Irish unchanged for England clash

SIX NATIONS Ireland v England
Date: Saturday, 28 February Kick-off: 1730 GMT Venue: Croke Park, Dublin
Coverage: BBC One, BBC Red Button, Radio 5 Live, Radio Ulster MW and BBC Sport website


Paddy Wallace explains the eye injuries which saw him come off early in successive Six Nations matches.

Ireland coach Declan Kidney has named an unchanged starting line-up to face England at Croke Park on Saturday.

The only alteration to the match squad is Ireland's most-capped player Malcolm O'Kelly being replaced on the bench by Munster lock Mick O'Driscoll.

Kidney had options to change, but a fit-again Paddy Wallace is again named as Brian O'Driscoll's midfield partner.

Wallace had to leave the field on successive games with a head injury but has received the thumbs-up from Kidney.

Ireland flanker S|tephen Ferris says that Saturday's game against England will be the biggest day of his short career.

The Ulsterman had 16 stitches over the left eye following a clash of heads against France, then the following week had further stitches inserted over his left eye.

He was rated slightly doubtful with the possibility of Gordon D'Arcy coming in for his first start since breaking his arm against Italy in the 2008 campaign.

Hooker Jerry Flannery, flanker Stephen Ferris and scrum-half Tomas O'Leary held off possible challenges for their respective positions.

Kidney could have utilised the stronger scrummaging power of Ulster skipper Rory Best, while Denis Leamy is nearing full match fitness again for a slot in the back-row.

Peter Stringer has shown that he is no spent force just yet, and could easily have worn the number nine jersey ahead of O'Leary whose all-round game just gives him the edge at present.

However, O'Kelly, who has a masters degree in mathematics, now appears to be out of the equation altogether despite having a run-on role as a replacement in the victory against Italy two weeks ago.

Veteran prop John Hayes is now set to take over his mantle when the Munsterman joins the lock on 92 appearances this Saturday.

O'Kelly's prospects of reaching the 100-cap mark now look remote although coach Kidney insisted that the Leinster lock remains in his thoughts.

Pscott11-Ulster 4Ever

"I'm sure Malcolm will force his way back into the side," said Kidney.

"(But) Mick (O'Driscoll) had been going well prior to getting the shoulder injury and he played very well in the Magners League on the weekend, so I felt he deserved his chance.

"We went through the whole team selection. The team are training so well and we took that into account.

"The lads who came on as subs in the first two matches have put their hands up, as have the guys on Magners League duty at the weekend.

Ireland: R Kearney; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll (capt), P Wallace, L Fitzgerald; R O'Gara, T O'Leary; M Horan, J Flannery, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell, S Ferris, D Wallace, J Heaslip.
Replacements: R Best, T Court, M O'Driscoll, D Leamy, P Stringer, G D'Arcy, G Murphy.

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see also
Italy 9-38 Ireland
15 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Ireland 30-21 France
07 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
England 36-11 Italy
07 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Six Nations as it happened
07 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Review - 2008 Six Nations season
02 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union

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