Ireland rest Aussie heroes

Ireland have rested most of their big names for Sunday's World Cup encounter with Russia. [more]

Ireland rest Aussie heroes

Ireland have rested most of their big names for Sunday’s World Cup encounter with Russia.

Head coach Declan Kidney has made nine changes and one positional switch from the side that upset Tri Nations Champions Australia last time out.

Squad skipper Brian O’Driscoll is one of five Lions given the weekend off, with 2009 tour captain Paul O’Connell another.

Gordon D’Arcy, Tommy Bowe and Stephen Ferris are also not included, although Rob Kearney, Keith Earls, Donncha O’Callaghan and Jamie Heaslip are asked to back up their impressive performances against the Wallabies with another big showing against the lowest ranked team in Pool C.

Leinster duo Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien are the other players retained, with clubmate Leo Cullen chosen to lead the side on his World Cup debut.

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There are also tournament debuts for hooker Sean Cronin, wing Fergus McFadden and flanker Donnacha Ryan, while veteran Lions tourist Ronan O’Gara comes in for Jonathan Sexton at fly-half.

Earls moves from the wing to midfield, where he will be partnered by Ulster’s Paddy Wallace, as Andrew Trimble takes the slot the young Lion held against the Wallabies in Auckland.

"I think in tournament rugby it's extremely difficult to play in games non-stop," said Kidney, whose side face Italy in their final group game on October 2.

"These guys who are playing here have been training very well, and I think they're the best men to represent us in this match."

Irelandhave faced Russia just once before, winning 35-3 in a World Cup qualifier in Krasnoyarsknine years ago.

The Russians have lost both their opening fixtures and were humbled 53-17 by Italy earlier this week but Ireland assistant coach Alan Gafney insisted they won’t be taking them lightly.

"We won’t be treating Russia with any less respect than they deserve and they do deserve a lot of respect," said Gafney.

"That’s an Irish thing – we do treat the opposition with respect. Some of our opponents may not treat us with that respect.

"We’ve done a lot of work on Russia. We’ve watched them throughout the Churchill Cup. The Churchhill Cup may not be well known but they played the USA, they played Canada and they played Tonga, and Canada and Tonga have shown a bit of form in this World Cup. 

"We’ve watched all their games and we’ve done work on their game last week. We’ve got a pretty good handle on what they do and what they don’t do.

"We can’t leave that win over Australia on the shelf and not go out and perform in the final two games.

"There’s definitely room for improvement. That was a performance but it’s nowhere near our best performance. There’s no surety that we’re through, and we understand that."

Ireland (vs Russia, Rotorua, Sunday, 6am BST)

Rob Kearney (Leinster); Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster), Paddy Wallace (Ulster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Ronan O'Gara (Munster), Isaac Boss (Leinster); Cian Healy (Leinster), Sean Cronin (Leinster), Tony Buckley (Sale), Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster), Leo Cullen (captain, Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Sean O'Brien (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster)

Replacements: Rory Best (Ulster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Denis Leamy (Munster), Shane Jennings (Leinster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Geordan Murphy (Leicester)

NB Bold denotes Lion

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