Jackman and Heaslip to start


In the wake of yet another disappointing performance, Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan has acceded - to a certain extent - to mounting calls for a change in personnel by bringing in Jamie Heaslip, Bernard Jackman and Rob Kearney for this weekend's daunting trip to Six Nations champions France.

Saturday's nervous, disjointed display against Italy did little to lift the gloom lingering around the Irish camp prompting O'Sullivan, previously inclined to maintain the status quo, to inject some impetus into his side.

Heaslip and Jackman come into the pack, and with both on top of their game with Leinster, the pair are certain to bolster Ireland's ball-carrying options at the Stade de France. Simon Easterby and Rory Best are the players who make way.

Heaslip's inclusion sees a backrow reshuffle, with the Leinster youngster starting at number eight and Denis Leamy moving to blindside flanker. Jackman comes in for Best at hooker despite persisting doubts regarding his accuracy out of touch. However, Jackman's mobility around the park and ability to take the ball forward at real pace sees him get the nod ahead of the Ulster captain.

"We decided to give the Leinster guys a run," explained O'Sullivan at today's team announcement in Killiney. "Their form has been good and we wanted to see how they got on last week after coming off the bench.

"It was only fair to give them a start. Both players are ball carriers and that will be beneficial for us in Paris . . . it's good to give them a shot against France. They've put themselves in the frame but now the pressure is on to deliver on their form.

"They're up for it and that's why I put them in there."

Behind the scrum O'Sullivan has largely stood by his tried and tested, the injury to Gordon D'Arcy forcing the only change in personnel.

In D'Arcy's absence, Andrew Trimble will move from the right wing to inside centre with Geordan Murphy, should he prove his fitness, switching wings while Kearney is set to earn his first Six Nations start.

"Kearney's inclusion is reward for his display against Italy," added O'Sullivan. "He came off the bench and did really well."

Murphy remains a slight doubt due to an eye problem that caused his omission from training and will visit a specialist later this afternoon. Shane Horgan wins a place on the bench after completing his recovery from a rib injury in Friday's Ireland A defeat by England Saxons.

With many critics still calling for O'Sullivan's removal, the Ireland coached maintained the negative publicity is not affecting his capacity to get the best out of his side.

"I know there's talking going on outside camp about other things but I can't buy into that - it's not going to make me do a better job," he added. "In fact, it would detract from the job. We got over the hurdle against Italy. It was ugly, but we still got over it.

"Paris is a greater hurdle and it's a big ask. I deal with the pressure by staying busy and getting on with my work. There is only time for work in the Six Nations.

"Putting energy into thinking about what is being said is wasted. You can't control what people write or say."

Shane Horgan wins a place on the bench after completing his recovery from a rib injury in Friday's Ireland A defeat by England Saxons.

Ireland (v France): G Dempsey (Leinster); G Murphy (Leicester), O'Driscoll (Leinster, captain), A Trimble (Ulster), R Kearney (Leinster); R O'Gara (Munster), E Reddan (Wasps); M Horan (Munster), B Jackman (Leinster), J Hayes (Munster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), M O'Kelly (Leinster), D Leamy (Munster), D Wallace (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster). Replacements: R Best (Ulster), T Buckley (Munster), M O'Driscoll (Munster), S Easterby (Llanelli), P Stringer (Munster), P Wallace (Ulster), S Horgan (Leinster).