Rob Kearney won’t feature in either of those ties but more important is the confirmation that the Leinster back suffered only a slight groin strain against France last weekend and should be available for selection against England on Saturday week.
Kearney’s temporary absence has been more than tempered by the expectation that Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Stephen Ferris and even Tommy Bowe may all play some part in Donnybrook tomorrow or at the Aviva two days later.
Bowe’s potential participation is something of a surprise given that the official line last Sunday was that he was being pencilled in for the England tie while Ferris’s re-appearance on a rugby field for the first time since January will be the most pleasing sight of all.
“He has come forward faster than we would have anticipated,” said kicking coach Mark Tainton yesterday. “Credit to him and the medical team. For the last two weeks he has been doing all of the running, running the angles and running the plays and doing contact, which is great.”
Declan Kidney will announce his starting 15s for both games this afternoon and, while changes are guaranteed, it is unlikely the Ireland coach will make as many changes for Saturday’s test as his French counterpart.
Marc Lievremont carried a reputation as the tinkerman with him to Dublin this week and he lived up to that tag yesterday by making 13 changes to the side which will face Ireland for the second time in eight days.
His failure to land on a settled 15 this last four years has been roundly criticised at times but it is hard to quibble with his latest bout of musical chairs given the quality of ‘new’ faces introduced and the sight of the World Cup peeping over the horizon.
Out go the likes of Damien Traille, Francois Trinh-Duc, Sylvain Marconnet and Thierry Dusatoir. Among those coming in are Cedric Heymans, David Skrela, Jean-Baptiste Poux and Lionel Nallet.
It bears more than a resemblance to New Zealand’s visit to Dublin in November of 2005 when Graham Henry made 15 changes to the team that crushed Wales in Cardiff a week before and still managed to claim a 38-point win at Lansdowne Road.
The two being asked to double up after last weekend’s 19-12 win in Bordeaux are left-wing Alexis Pailisson and hooker Dimitri Szarewski and it will be a major opportunity for some players eager to wear the blue jersey again after an unwanted absence.
Aurelien Rougerie starts his first game since fracturing an ankle during Clermont Auvergne’s Top 14 semi-final in May while Heymans plays for his country for the first time since 2009.
“They have got tremendous strength in depth and it is going to be a massive challenge again this weekend,” said Tainton, “but the guys are looking forward to it and hopefully we will get a better start than we did in Bordeaux.”