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NEW PLYMOUTH - Ireland head coach Declan Kidney on Friday announced his team to play their opening match in Pool C against USA at Stadium Taranaki, New Plymouth on Sunday, September 11.
Captain and center threequarter Brian O’Driscoll emphasised how much his team is looking forward to their opening match of Rugby World Cup 2011 against USA on Sunday at Stadium Taranaki.
“We have been waiting a long time for this World Cup to start,” he said. “The first match can’t come quickly enough.”
It's a mix of somewhat experienced and enormously experienced Irish players. The second row combination of Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan boast 153 caps between them, and hooker Rory Best runs on for his 51st. No. 8 Jamie Heaslip is, like the USA's Scott LaValla and Pat Danahy, an alumnus of the Trinity rugby club at Dublin University.
Jonathan Sexton will run the offense from flyhalf and will be working with Conor Murray, the scrumhalf claiming only his third cap.
“We did say we would judge [selection] on a number of things: how the guys finished last season, how they went in pre-season," said Ireland coach Declan Kidney about the selection of Murray. "Obviously he finished last season strong, he has done well in pre-season and he deserves a chance to bring his own skill set to the game.”
“He is confident but not arrogant," added O'Driscoll. "He has good inner belief. He’ll get there with every game that he plays, that he gets under his belt. I’m sure everything will be a stepping stone to be a more rounded player but I think he is starting on a pretty good footing.”
Murray and Sexton partner for the first time for Ireland.
“It’s their first time in a Test match. With every minute they’ll have together on the pitch, they’ll improve. I wouldn’t envisage any difficulties. I’ll expect them to do what halfbacks do best and that’s boss things, especially bossing the forwards around the place,” said the captain.
The midfield of Gordon D'Arcy (59 caps) and O'Driscoll (113 caps) is not exactly a pair of newbies, with O'Driscoll considered one of the greatest Irish rugby players of all time (with the possible exception of Willie John McBride and Mike Gibson).
Tommy Bowe (40 caps) and Geordan Murphy also both 40 or more caps in the backline.
Kidney said he wants a victory, and isn't hung up on bonus points.
“The only points I’m interested in are the four on offer at the start of the game," Kidney said. "We’re not thinking about bonus points, and we won’t be running over anybody. If we win 3-0, we’ll take a 3-0 win. Bonus points might come into play, but if you win every match bonus points aren’t an issue.”
Ireland played at Stadium Taranaki last year, losing 66-28 to New Zealand. Kidney joked about history.
“We played here 19 years ago as well in a school game and didn’t win that one either, so it’ll be third time lucky.”
1. Tom Court
2. Rory Best
3. Mike Ross
4. Donncha O'Callaghan
5. Paul O'Connell
6. Stephen Ferris
7. Shane Jennings
8. Jamie Heaslip
9. Conor Murray
10. Jonathan Sexton
11. Keith Earls
12. Gordon D'Arcy
13. Brian O'Driscoll (c)
14. Tommy Bowe
15. Geordan Murphy
16. Jerry Flannery
17. Tony Buckley
18. Donnacha Ryan
19. Denis Leamy
20. Eoin Reddan
21. Sean O'Brien
22. Andrew Trimble