Limerick rugby star Keith Earls has been left out of the Ireland side to face Wales in Saturdayâ€™s big RBS Six Nations Championship opener at the Millennium Stadium. (1.30pm)
Earls had played at second centre in Irelandâ€™s autumn international with Argentina in November, but the fit-again Brian Oâ€™Driscoll will fill the 13 shirt against the Welsh this weekend.
Earlsâ€™ hopes of gaining inclusion in the starting team on the wing were dispelled with the inclusion of Ulsterâ€™s Craig Gilroy, who starred in the win over the Pumas in November.
Twenty five-year-old Earls, who is listed among the replacements for the trip to Cardiff, has won 34 caps to date for Ireland. His Munster team-mate Simon Zebo moves from full-back to play on the left wing.
Ireland head coach Declan Kidney said: â€œIt was a tight call because thereâ€™s so much competition. Fergus McFadden and Keith Earls have been playing well, so itâ€™s testament to the way Craig and Simon (Zebo) have been playing that theyâ€™re selected.â€
Second rows Mike McCarthy and Donnacha Ryan will start a championship game together for the first time, with McCarthy making his first start in the tournament having featured as a replacement last season.
Sean Oâ€™Brien returns to the starting team after missing the November internationals in a back row that includes Peter Oâ€™Mahony, who gets the nod to start ahead of Ulsterâ€™s Chris Henry, and Jamie Heaslip, who will captain Ireland in the RBS 6 Nations Championship for the first time.
Conor Murray is the only Limerick player in the starting team although there are four locals on the bench - Sean Cronin, David Kilcoyne, Eoin Reddan and Earls.
IRELAND - Rob Kearney; Craig Gilroy, Brian Oâ€™Driscoll, Gordon Dâ€™Arcy, Simon Zebo; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross; Mike McCarthy, Donnacha Ryan; Peter Oâ€™Mahony, Sean Oâ€™Brien, Jamie Heaslip (Captain). Replacements: Sean Cronin, David Kilcoyne, Declan Fitzpatrick, Donncha Oâ€™Callaghan, Chris Henry, Eoin Reddan, Ronan Oâ€™Gara, Keith Earls.
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