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O'Brien to start for Wolfhounds
29 Jan 2015 16:04
Sean O'Brien will make his first appearance in an Irish jersey in 14 months when he starts for Ireland Wolfhounds against England Saxons on Friday.
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The Leinster flanker hasn't featured on the international scene since suffering a shoulder injury in the last-minute defeat to New Zealand in November 2013, and subsequently required two separate surgeries.
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Full-back Felix Jones will captain a strong side against Saxons at Irish Independent Park in Cork (kick-off 1945, live on RTÉ 2). The only uncapped player in the starting XV is Jack Conan, who lines out at number eight and he is joined in the back row by O'Brien and Dominic Ryan.
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Iain Henderson continues his return from injury, locking down in the second row alongside Mike McCarthy while the front row consists of Mike Ross, Richardt Strauss and Jack McGrath. Kieran Marmion will combine with Ian Madigan at half-back, with Gordon D'Arcy and Keith Earls forming the centre partnership. Jones is joined in the back three by Fergus McFadden and Luke Fitzgerald.
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McFadden backed "X-factor" flanker and Leinster team-mate O'Brien's leadership to boost the Wolfhounds' chances this weekend.
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"Seany's in great nick now and looking sharp out on the pitch," said McFadden.
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"He's a massive player for Irish and Leinster rugby so it's great to see him back fit after that trouble he had with the shoulder.
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"Sean's got an X-factor. Between his carries, his work-rate and his chat as well off the field, he is a real leader.
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"I'm sure he'll be blowing with his first 80 minutes in a long time, but he's a massive asset to Irish rugby."
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Front-row replacements include Rob Herring, Michael Bent and Nathan White. Robbie Diack and Eoin McKeon provide back five cover, with Isaac Boss, Noel Reid and Craig Gilroy covering the outfield.
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Meanwhile, Rugby League convert Sam Burgess makes his first international appearance in Union for England at centre. Ireland Wolfhounds: Felix Jones (captain); Fergus McFadden, Keith Earls, Gordon D'Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Ian Madigan, Kieran Marmion; Mike Ross, Richardt Strauss, Jack McGrath; Mike McCarthy, Iain Henderson; Jack Conan, Sean O'Brien, Dominic Ryan. Replacements: Rob Herring, Michael Bent, Nathan White, Robbie Diack, Isaac Boss, Noel Reid, Craig Gilroy.
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England Saxons XV: Chris Pennell; Chris Ashton, Elliot Daly Sam Burgess, Marland Yarde; Henry Slade, Lee Dickson (captain); Matt Mullan , Rob Webber, Henry Thomas; Matt Garvey, James Gaskell; Dave Ewers, Matt Kvesic, Thomas Waldrom.
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Replacements: Luke Cowan Dickie, Alex Waller, Jake Cooper-Woolley, Maro Itoje, Carl Fearns, Joe Simpson, Ollie Devoto, Christian Wade.
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