Kidney Shows Faith in Youngsters

Kidney Shows Faith in Youngsters
By Cian Tracey
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He's damned if he does and damed if he doesn't.

Declan Kidney's decision to hand debuts to both Paddy Jackson and Luke Marshall has already been greeted with a mixed reaction.

Jackson is handed the reins at out half with Ronan O'Gara being overlooked following his poor run of form. There had been plenty of speculation that the vastly experienced O'Gara would be selected in favour of Jackson who has yet to win a cap. But that was put to bed when news broke of Kidney's decision late last night.

Jackson played in the non-competitive game against Fiji at Thomond Park last November and although he performed well, it was difficult to judge him against such a disinterested opposition.

His performances in the latter stages of the Heineken Cup last season left a lot to be desired, particularly in the final against Leinster. At today's team announcement, the 21 year-old spoke of how he has matured and gained a lot of confidence since that day in Twickenham.

It is a brave call from Kidney but is one that is welcomed by the majority of the Irish public. The major issue however with the selection of Jackson is how his kicking both from hand and from the tee will stand up in Murrayfield. Although the Ulsterman has been first choice out half with his province, he has had major kicking struggles which has seen Ruan Pienaar taking over the duties.


At Carton House earlier Kidney stated: "Paddy’s inclusion was a challenge given the stature of Ronan O’Gara, but I think Paddy deserves a go in this one. It was a very difficult decision to leave Ronan out, it was right up there. But that’s a compliment to Paddy."

Presumably O'Gara has now slipped to third choice out half and with the likes of Madigan and Keatley hot on his heels, it is difficult to see O'Gara starting another test in the green jersey.


There is a second debutant outside of Jackson as Luke Marshall is handed his opportunity. Amazingly Marshall will start an international test before he starts a Heineken Cup game. But he has long been deserving of his first cap and it is refreshing to see a genuine exciting young talent be given the nod. Ireland will look to their talisman Brian O'Driscoll to guide the debutant through a game which Scotland will no doubt target the 10/12 channels.


Like Jackson, Marshall played in that uncapped game against Fiji last November and he was also impressive and scored a try in that game. But it has been Marshall's performances for Ulster that have really caught the eye. He is a very clever midfielder that is blessed with a joyous creative brain. It's a big opportunity for the youngster and given that Gordon D'arcy isn't getting any younger, we may have a new long term Irish inside centre on our hands.

Elsewhere in the starting XV, Tom Court is selected ahead of the unlucky Dave Kilcoyne. Court has had a fine season for Ulster but has yet to appear in either of Ireland's first two Six Nations games. Kilcoyne on the other hand has come off the bench in both and has acquitted himself very well, both at scrum time and in the loose. Kilcoyne has been one of Munster's standout performers this season and can feel hard done by in Kidney's decision to select a player who hasn't made either match day squad thus far.

In today's press conference, Kidney pointed to how well Court had been scrummaging all season for Ulster and seemed to suggest that Kilcoyne was a player who could have far more impact from the bench than Court. This may be the case but that will be little consolation to the Munster man right now. In the end it was always going to be a tight call between to two props. Court is a fine player in his own right but as ever, Kidney had the impossible task of trying to please everybody.


As expected Keith Earls comes onto the wing in place of the stricken Simon Zebo. Earls who was one of Ireland's shining lights in an otherwise dismal display against England two weeks ago, looks to have finally found a home on the wing rather than in the centre. Fellow Munster man, Donncha O'Callaghan takes his place in the second row alongside Donnacha Ryan in place of Mike McCarthy who is out injured.

Luke Fitzgerald makes a welcome return to the bench where he will be itching to prove plenty of doubters wrong.

The debate will still rage on about why Kidney didn't blood one of the young out halves in New Zealand last Summer but it is time to focus on the present. Jackson has undoubted talent and it is imperative that the fans are patient with him.


The spotlight will again be firmly on Kidney come Sunday afternoon. The Irish public have got their wish with this adventurous looking team selection. It is now over to the players to repay their manager's faith.

Ireland (v Scotland): R Kearney; C Gilroy, B O’Driscoll, L Marshall, K Earls; P Jackson, C Murray. T Court, R Best, M Ross; D O’Callaghan, D Ryan; P O’Mahony, S O’Brien, J Heaslip (captain).

Replacements: S Cronin, D Kilcoyne, D Fitzpatrick, D Toner, I Henderson; E Reddan, R O’Gara, L Fitzgerald.


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