O'Gara axed for Ireland clash


DUBLIN, March 16- Veteran fly-half Ronan O'Gara was dropped as Ireland coach Declan Kidney made three changes for this weekend's Six Nations showdown with England here Wednesday.

O’Gara, who started Ireland’s last two matches against Scotland and Wales, is replaced by Leinster No.10 Jonathan Sexton, who had been picked by Kidney for the earlier championship games against Italy and France.

"We’re blessed with two good 10s," Kidney said. "In the same way as I felt after the French match it was right to give Ronan a go for the next two games, I just felt it was right to give Jonathan a go this time."

The other change in personnel sees fullback Luke Fitzgerald dropped to make way for Munster’s Keith Earls, who moves from the wing to No.15.

Earls place on the left wing is filled by Andrew Trimble of Ulster, who will be making his first start in the championship.

"If Luke has made any errors recently it’s probably because he’s been trying too hard," Kidney said on his decision to drop Fitzgerald.

"He’s probably just been over-stretching himself ever so slightly and his timing is a bit off. Andrew has been knocking on the door and Keith has been going well so I think it’s a good combination."

Scrum-half Eoin Reddan, who was concussed in Saturday’s defeat against Wales in Cardiff, is named to start pending passing of fitness tests.

Ireland’s forwards have been left unchanged as Kidney’s men aim to prevent England from claiming a Grand Slam at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.

Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll said his team-mates were determined to give a good account of themselves against the English as they bring the curtain down on a disappointing campaign.

"I’m really looking forward to it. You always look forward to playing the best sides and more often than not, England are one of the best sides," O’Driscoll said.

Ireland struggled to beat Italy away before losing at home to France, despite outscoring the visitors by three tries to one. They then scraped victory over Scotland in Edinburgh before losing in Cardiff last week.

O’Driscoll believes however that Ireland are tantalisingly close to producing their best form.

"There are small little things that are fixable," he said. "It is great that we’re creating as many opportunities as we are doing but it’s not as good that we’re struggling to put them away.

"The frustration lies in the fact that we know we’re not a million miles away from where we want to be — we’re just struggling to get to that standard of performance that we know we have in us."

Ireland (15 to 1)

Keith Earls (Munster); Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Brian 0’Driscoll (Leinster, capt), Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster); Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster); Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), David Wallace (Munster), Sean O’Brien (Leinster); Paul O’Connell (Munster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster); Mike Ross (Leinster), Rory Best (Ulster), Cian Healy (Leinster)

Replacements: Ronan O’Gara (Munster), Peter Stringer (Munster), Denis Leamy (Munster), Paddy Wallace (Ulster), Sean Cronin (Connacht), Leo Cullen (Leinster), Tom Court (Ulster)