- 17 Sep 07, 12:01 PM
Belfast - Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan has made three changes for Friday’s must-win World Cup clash against France but the biggest talking-point may be his decision to leave Geordan Murphy out of the entire 22.
The Ireland team is: Dempsey; Horgan, O'Driscoll, capt, D'Arcy, Trimble; O'Gara, Reddan; Horan, Flannery, Hayes, O'Callaghan, O'Connell, Easterby, D Wallace, Leamy. Replacements: Sheahan, S Best, O'Kelly, N Best, Boss, P Wallace, Duffy.
To put it mildly, Gavin Duffy's inclusion on the bench at Murphy's expense is baffling.
O'Sullivan has explained Murphy's absence by pointing out the Leicester player's disappointing displays in his last two Six Nations outings against France but that is unlikely to quell the controversy.
It will be interesting to hear Geordan's thoughts on the subject when we hook up with him later this week for our World Cup Q&A which is appearing on the BBC Sport Website.
That’s providing we can locate him because he must be thoroughly disenchanted with the constant questioning about his sidelining.
Neil Best must be a tad bemused at not being included in the starting line-up.
Ireland have lacked aggression and fire in their opening two matches – qualities that the Ulsterman has in abundance.
Maybe O’Sullivan feels Best can be bettered used as an impact player on Friday. But what about making an impact right at the start of the match and rattling the hosts?
The changes that O’Sullivan has made to the starting team are fair calls.
The injury to Rory Best meant that Jerry Flannery’s inclusion was a certainty.
There is little more to be said.
The Irish performances to date have been dismal and the Emerald Isle’s sports fans are trying to figure out what has gone wrong.
The players look stale and it’s difficult to believe that matters can be turned around for Friday’s game.
John Haughey is a journalist at BBC Sport in Belfast.