Earls the only change for France clash

Declan Kidney has made just one change to his starting XV for Saturday’s crucial Six Nations showdown against France at the Stade de France (8pm) with Keith Earls replacing Fergus McFadden.

Declan Kidney has made just one change to his starting XV for Saturday’s crucial Six Nations showdown against France at the Stade de France (8pm) with Keith Earls replacing Fergus McFadden.

Earls had been selected in the team to face Wales last weekend but had to withdraw from the squad after his newborn baby fell ill, meaning McFadden started alongside Gordon D’Arcy in midfield.

Having returned to the squad during the week Earls has been given his chance to make an impression wearing number 13 in the absence of captain Brian O’Driscoll.

The Munster man will have his work cut out against the imposing French centre duo of Rougerie and Fofana. McFadden drops to the replacements bench and Dave Kearney falls out of the match day squad.

Speaking at the team announcement press conference, Kidney admitted McFadden was unlucky to lose out but insisted Earls had been “buzzing” since returning to training and deserved his starting position.

Defeat in the Aviva Stadium last weekend has rendered this visit to a cold Stade de France a must-win if Ireland are to have a realistic chance of claiming this year’s championship.

Ireland (v France): R Kearney; T Bowe, K Earls, G D’Arcy, J Sexton, C Murray, J Heaslip, S O’Brien, S Ferris, P O’Connell (c), D O’Callaghan, M Ross, R Best, C Healy.

Replacements: S Cronin, T Court, D Ryan, P O’Mahony, E Reddan, R O’Gara, F McFadden.

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