Ireland picks unchanged side to face Wales at RWC
Updated: October 04, 2011, 20:54
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WELLINGTON, New Zealand(AP) Ireland coach Declan Kidney surprisingly picked an unchanged team to face Wales in Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarterfinal, with hooker Rory Best included subject to a late fitness test.
Best's participation in the remainder of the tournament seemed to be in doubt after he damaged his right shoulder and had to be replaced in last weekend's 36-6 final pool win over Italy.
But while Sean Cronin is on standby to step into the front row for the game in Wellington, Kidney has not given up hope that Best could be fit with further treatment.
"You always have to take each day as it comes and he's made nothing but progress since Sunday,'' Kidney said Wednesday.
Kidney even picked the same reserves, although Damien Varley will take Cronin's place on the bench if Best cannot play.
Varley only made it into the squad as an injury replacement for Jerry Flannery and could be joined in the 30-man group by Michael Sherry, who has been drafted in as unofficial cover so he is available for immediate confirmation should Best fail to recover.
Ronan O'Gara keeps his place ahead of Jonathan Sexton but Kidney said he had not agonized over the identity of his flyhalf.
"You would always go through a team one by one and give each position the same consideration,'' Kidney said.
The teams have an even record in World Cup meetings, with one win apiece.
Having won its pool ahead of Tri-Nations champion Australia, Ireland is arguably favorite for the match but Ireland's players are not looking too far ahead.
"Why would you even think about the final?'' captain Brian O'Driscoll said. "There's two more games to go. We're only thinking about the quarterfinal.''
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Brian O'Driscoll (captain), Gordon D'Arcy, Keith Earls, Ronan O'Gara, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien, Stephen Ferris, Paul O'Connell, Donncha O'Callaghan, Mike Ross, Rory Best, Cian Healy. Reserves: Sean Cronin, Tom Court, Donnacha Ryan, Denis Leamy, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Andrew Trimble.