Bradley ups the ante for clash with NZ Maori

IRELAND A coach Michael Bradley has upped the ante ahead of tonight’s Churchill Cup clash with New Zealand Maori (8pm, Sky Sports 1) by revealing a number of his players are in the mix for World Cup selection.

Bradley has been in regular contact with Ireland head coach Eddie O’Sullivan on tour with the senior team in Argentina, to give updates on his squad’s progress.

O’Sullivan is considering a small group of the A team for the handful of places still available in his World Cup party, but Bradley insists they must deliver over the next two games to remain in contention.

“Eddie O’Sullivan is in daily contact with us during the Churchill Cup. We’re giving him updates on the players and how they progress,” he said. “There are probably four or five of these lads who have a chance of making it to the World Cup – they’re already on Eddie’s radar. Of course, much depends on their performances over the next couple of games. If they perform well against the Maori and then on finals day, they will have done their chances a world of good.”

With both teams making light work of Canada in their pool openers, tomorrow’s showdown in Exeter has become a straight shoot-out for a place in the final at Twickenham on Saturday.

The Maori ran in nine tries to register a crushing 59-23 victory over Canada on Friday, but coach Donny Stevenson knows Ireland will be far more formidable, especially up front.

“Ireland are very physical. They racked up a big score against Canada, using strong running forwards and backs to do the damage,” he said. “They’re strong around set-pieces and that will be key. Ireland have been the most consistent of the home nations and that has been reflected in their depth. We saw their senior team in the Six Nations so we know all about the strength of Irish rugby. They gave us a bruising encounter in the Churchill Cup last year and their depth of talent is evidence of how strong their rugby is at the moment.”

Stevenson has made eight changes for the Maori, including an all-new front row of Craig West, Aled de Malmanche and Ben May, while lock Hayden Triggs replaces Isaac Ross.

Behind the pack, fly-half Tamati Ellison, centre Dwayne Sweeney, wing Hosea Gear and full-back Shannon Paku all come into the side that beat the Canadians.

“We are scheduled to play three games in eight days and, on such a short and intense trip, it is important that our players are looked after,” Stevenson said. “We have a strong squad with quality players and we don’t think the changes will affect the way we play.”

Bradley has reshuffled the Irish back division. With fly-half Jeremy Staunton called into the senior squad as cover for the injured Paddy Wallace, Leinster’s Johnny Sexton switches from full-back to fly-half. The knock-on effect sees Ross McCarron start in the 15 jersey while Keith Earls moves from the left wing to replace Seamus Mallon at inside centre. Leicester’s Johnny Murphy comes in on the wing and fellow Tiger Frank Murphy starts at scrum-half after playing in the Heineken Cup final last weekend.

Bradley has made one change in the pack, with blind-side flanker Stephen Keogh making way for Munster’s John O’Sullivan.

IRELAND A: R McCarron (Leinster); P McKenzie (Ulster), D Cave (Ulster), K Earls (Munster), J Murphy (Leicester); J Sexton (Leinster), F Murphy (Leicester); R Hogan (Connacht), J Fogarty (Connacht, captain), M Ross (Harlequins), R Caldwell (Ulster), A Farley (Connacht), J O’Sullivan (Munster), J O’Connor (Wasps), R Wilson (Ulster).

Replacements: S Cronin (Munster), D Fitzpatrick (Ulster), D Gannon (Connacht), S Keogh (Leinster), C Keane (Connacht), S Mallon (Northampton), J Hearty (Connacht)

NEW ZEALAND MAORI: S Paku; H Gear, D Sweeney, R Tipoki, A Tahana; T Elkison, C Smylie, C West, A de Malmanche, B May, K Ormsby, H Triggs, A Macdonald, S Waldrom T Latimer, W Smith.

Replacements: L Mahoney, H Tui, I Ross, J Hoeata, J Rodley, C Bruce, P Te Whare.

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CourtsRugbyPlace: IrelandPlace: ArgentinaPlace: ExeterPlace: TwickenhamPlace: NEW ZEALAND MAORIPerson: BradleyPerson: Michael BradleyPerson: Eddie O’SullivanPerson: O’SullivanPerson: EddiePerson: Donny StevensonPerson: StevensonPerson: Craig WestPerson: Aled de MalmanchePerson: Ben MayPerson: Hayden TriggsPerson: Isaac RossPerson: Tamati EllisonPerson: Dwayne SweeneyPerson: Shannon PakuPerson: Jeremy StauntonPerson: Paddy WallacePerson: Johnny SextonPerson: Ross McCarronPerson: Keith EarlsPerson: Seamus MallonPerson: Johnny MurphyPerson: Frank MurphyPerson: Stephen KeoghPerson: John O’SullivanPerson: R McCarronPerson: P McKenziePerson: D CavePerson: K EarlsPerson: J MurphyPerson: J SextonPerson: F MurphyPerson: R HoganPerson: J FogartyPerson: M RossPerson: R CaldwellPerson: A FarleyPerson: J O’SullivanPerson: J O’ConnorPerson: R WilsonPerson: S CroninPerson: D FitzpatrickPerson: D GannonPerson: S KeoghPerson: C KeanePerson: S MallonPerson: J HeartyPerson: S PakuPerson: H GearPerson: D SweeneyPerson: R TipokiPerson: A TahanaPerson: T ElkisonPerson: C SmyliePerson: C WestPerson: A de MalmanchePerson: B MayPerson: K OrmsbyPerson: H TriggsPerson: A MacdonaldPerson: S Waldrom T LatimerPerson: W SmithPerson: L MahoneyPerson: H TuiPerson: I RossPerson: J HoeataPerson: J RodleyPerson: C BrucePerson: P Te WhareEvent: Churchill CupEvent: World CupEvent: Heineken Cup finalOrganisation: New Zealand MaoriOrganisation: Sky SportsOrganisation: CanadaOrganisation: MaoriOrganisation: IrelandOrganisation: HoseaOrganisation: LeinsterOrganisation: LeicesterOrganisation: MunsterOrganisation: UlsterOrganisation: ConnachtOrganisation: HarlequinsOrganisation: WaspsOrganisation: Northampton
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