MUNSTER’S CONOR MURRAY is a surprise feature in Declan Kidney’s Ireland side to face the United States in their opening Rugby World Cup encounter in New Plymouth on Sunday.
The Limerick man gets the nod at scrum-half ahead of Eoin Reddan – and will earn only his third Irish cap, and his first ever start in an Irish jersey, on the biggest stage of all in two days’ time.
Murray will partner Leinster outhalf Jonathan Sexton in the half-backs, in a side that is otherwise largely as pundits would have predicted.
Geordan Murphy is preferred at full-back, while Keith Earls is deployed on the left wing opposite Tommy Bowe on the right. Captain Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy reprise their usual partnership in the centre.
In the pack, Tom Court fills in for the injured Cian Healy, with Rory Best retaining his spot as hooker alongside Mike Ross in the front row.
Behind the usual second row pairing of Donncha O’Callaghan and Paul O’Connell, Stephen Ferris and Shane Jennings will start either side of Jamie Heaslip – with Sean O’Brien given more time to overcome a slight knee problem.
Ireland’s game against the US kicks off at 7am Irish time (6pm local) on Sunday morning, and will be broadcast live on RTÉ and Setanta – and, of course, we’ll have full live text commentary here on TheScore.ie.
Ireland (v USA, Sunday 7am)
Geordan Murphy; Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Gordon D’Arcy, Keith Earls; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Tom Court, Rory Best, Mike Ross; Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell; Stephen Ferris, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Jerry Flannery, Tony Buckley, Donnacha Ryan, Denis Leamy, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O’Gara, Andrew Trimble.