Ireland Player by player

Rory Best: Superbly dynamic.

Rory Best: Superbly dynamic.

Sat, Feb 9, 2013, 00:00

15 Rob Kearney Age: 26 . Height: 1.85m (6’ 1”). Weight: 95 kg (14st 13lb)

After an important 80 minutes against Wales and with his contract sorted, the incumbent Lion must return to his best because England are guaranteed to invade his territory: the skies.

14 Craig Gilroy

Age: 21. Height: 1.83m (6’) Weight: 90kg (14st 2lb)

Defence has been a revelation, especially how he utilises his pace to avoid getting isolated by big runners, but the next task is to find some open space.

13 Brian O’Driscoll

Age: 34. Height: 1.75m (5’ 9”) Weight: 95kg (14st 13lb)

Clive Woodward wrote this week about how the Wilkinson-Greenwood-Tindall axis struggled to bottle him up in 2003, same problem faces Farrell-Twelvetrees-Barritt. Some clever decoy runs may be on the menu.

12 Gordon D’Arcy

Age: 33. Height: 1.80m (5’ 11”) Weight: 93kg (14st 9lb)

The birthday boy’s enduring value was immediately evident when Wales started making inroads down Keith Earls’s channel after D’Arcy limped off last Saturday.

11 Simon Zebo

Age: 22. Height: 1.83m (6’) Weight: 96kg (15st 1lb)

The Matrix-flick, the hip-hop DJ, the finisher, his potential knows no bounds but Chris Ashton presents the sternest challenge of his short career.

10 Jonathan Sexton

Age: 27. Height: 1.88 (6’2”) Weight: 92kg (14st 6lb)

Defence is improving and range of passing nearing a stratospheric plain, but needs another 100 per cent place-kicking return to see off Farrell.

9 Conor Murray

Age: 23. Height: 1.83 (6’)

Weight: 86kg (13st 7lb)

Appears to have moved into serious Lions reckoning, which can be solidified by outplaying Ben Youngs and Danny Care today. His advantage being physique to their pace and passing abilities.

1 Cian Healy

Age: 25. Height: 1.83 (6’). Weight: 110kg (17st 4lb)

The pain sponge. If concussed around the 70-minute mark then Ireland are probably still in the contest but if he takes a knee before half-time, a world of hurt is guaranteed for the others.

2 Rory Best

Age: 29. Height: 1.80m (5’11”) Weight: 100kg (17st 4lb)

Only trails O’Driscoll and O’Brien as Ireland’s most important player nowadays. Superbly dynamic and grasps the leadership role when others are gasping for air.

3 Mike Ross

Age: 33. Height: 1.88m (6’2”) Weight: 116kgs (18st 3lb)

A major concern. If his calves or, presumably, several other parts of a creaking, ageing, body gives way then England will seek to scrummage off every play. Remember Twickenham and be afraid.

4 Mike McCarthy

Age: 31. Height: 1.93 (6’4”) Weight: 100kgs (16st 7lb)

Irish blood, English heart. There is no one on earth he’s afraid of. This game may bring the best out of the London-born, Leinster bound lock. It’s needed.

5 Donnacha Ryan

Age: 29. Height: 1.98m (6’6”) Weight: 108kgs (17st)

Another who must keep functioning through 80 minutes of punishment if Ireland are to prevail. Should attack Parling’s lineout but job one is to secure possession.

6 Peter O’Mahony

Age: 23. Height: 1.91 (6’3”) Weight: 105kgs (16st 7lb)

A savage, made for this very game with the only concern being a history of concussion. It happened again in Cardiff so hopefully he can recover to put in 60 minute shift.

7 Sean O’Brien

Age: 25. Height: 1.88. (6’2”) Weight: 108kgs (17st)

Who is the best backrower in Europe? Tom Wood and O’Brien are genuine contenders to Thierry Dusautoir’s crown. We may have a new king by 5pm tomorrow.

8 Jamie Heaslip

Age: 29. Height: 1.91 (6’3”) Weight: 109kgs (17st 2lb)

Presuming the scrum function, his control at the base will prove crucial. As will intelligent communication with Jerome Garces. This is the biggest challenge of his career.

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