Two new Irish names to face All Blacks
Ireland's new wing man Simon Zebo. Photo: Getty Images
Ireland included two new names in their side announced today to try to break 107 years of agony in the first rugby union Test against the All Blacks in Auckland.
Wing Simon Zebo and prop Declan Fitzpatrick were called up for Saturday's match, which sees captain Brian O'Driscoll return after missing all of this years Six Nations tournament because of injury.
Ireland have never won against the All Blacks, playing them 24 times since 1905 and losing every encounter except for a draw in 1973.
This time Zebo, the youngest member of the squad at 22, forms part of a potent back three with Rob Kearney at fullback and Fergus McFadden on the right wing.
O'Driscoll has a new partner in the centres with Keith Earls outside Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray.
Fitzpatrick earned his start in the front row with Cian Healy and Rory Best after Mike Ross failed to recover sufficiently from the hamstring strain that has bothered him over the last two weeks.
Dan Touhy and Donnacha Ryan are paired in the middle row with Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip forming the loose trio.
Kearney, the European player of the year and a member of the Heineken Cup-winning Leinster side, said there was no lack of motivation nor hint of fatigue among the Ireland players who have had little rest over the past year.
"You're representing your country against the All Blacks in their back yard. If you can't get up for that, you're in the wrong game," he said.
Ireland (15-1): Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O'Driscoll (captain), Keith Earls, Simon Zebo; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien, Peter O'Mahony; Donnacha Ryan, Dan Touhy; Declan Fitzpatrick, Rory Best, Cian Healy. Replacements: Sean Cronin, Ronan Loughney, Donncha O'Callaghan, Kevin McLaughlin, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O'Gara, Darren Cave.