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Preview: Ireland v Russia

24th September 2011 12:48

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Andrew Trimble

Trimble: Point to prove

Heading in to the World Cup Ireland where shrouded in doom and gloom. How quickly things can change, though, with a win over Australia leaving Irish eyes smiling. Declan Kidney's men will be looking to retain that momentum when they face Russia on Sunday.

Having dropped to their lowest-ever position of eighth in the IRB rankings, Ireland were written off before the tournament had even started. However, as Australia learned, the Irish are never out of it.

But that was last week and Kidney will have reminded his troops that the performance against Australia counts for nothing more than the points taken from the game; past glories won't help them going forward.

Kidney has made nine changes for the clash in Rotorua. In the pack, prop Tony Buckley, hooker Sean Cronin and flank Donnacha Ryan get starting spots. Leo Cullen replaces Paul O'Connell in the second row, with the Leinster man handed the captaincy in the absence of Brain O'Driscoll.

Ronan O'Gara and Isaac Boss form an all-new half-back combination with Paddy Wallace coming in on O'Gara's outside. Keith Earls switches from the wing to join Wallace in the midfield allowing for Andrew Trimble and Fergus McFadden to fill the spots out wide.

Despite the changes, word from the Irish camp is that the game is one they will not be taking lightly.

"In the World Cup you can't underestimate anybody. You'll be in for a big surprise if you think you can just walk up for the game and finish it off," said hooker Rory Best.

"We've prepared for this game just as aggressively as we would for any other top team."

Russia too have shuffled their personnel, with coach Nikolay Nerush matching Kidney's nine changes.

The Bears will field a new front row with hooker Valery Tsnobiladze and tighthead prop Alexander Khrokin - who are making their first starts in the tournament - joining Sergey Popov up front. Adam Byrnes is joined by Denis Antonov in the second row.

The youngest member of the Russia squad, 20-year-old Denis Simplikevich, will make his debut on the wing, while inside centre Sergey Trishin makes his World Cup bow. Vasily Artemyev switches from wing to full-back to accommodate the arrival Simplikevich.

Russia began their campaign strongly with a good showing against the USA in which they defended manfully but offered little in attack. Worryingly for Nerush, they then leaked nine tries against Italy in their second match.

It's likely to be a long eighty minutes for Russia, but there is a chance of rain and should the heavens open, they may have more of a chance to put the skids on the Irish.

It's all relative though, with Russian bravery and determination surely not enough to prevent another heavy defeat.

Players to watch:

For Ireland: With Keith Earls suffering an indifferent run of form many have called for Andrew Trimble - who impressed during the World Cup warm-ups - to replace him. Earls remains in the stating XV, but a switch to the midfield allows Trimble to slot in on the wing. A big performance from the Ulsterman could see him holding on to the number eleven jersey in future games.

Also keep an eye on number eight Jamie Heaslip who has been stuck in the shadow of flankers Sean O'Brien and Stephen Ferris. Heaslip needs a big performances or he'll start to face serious pressure for his place.

For Russia: Making his debut for the Bears, youngster Denis Simplikevich will be looking to make his mark first up.

Head to head:If Russia clash with Italy is anything to go by, the Irish back three are going to find plenty of space to run in to on Sunday. Their opposite numbers are going to have to be at their best to stop a rout.

Previous results:

2002: Ireland won 35-3 in Krasnoyarsk

Predication: Ireland need to pick up the four-try bonus point and shouldn't have much trouble in doing so. Russia will give it everything but that won't stop Ireland winning by 30, with the weather preventing a greater margin of victory.

The teams:

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Donnacha Ryan, 5 Leo Cullen (c), 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Mike Ross, 18 Denis Leamy, 19 Shane Jennings, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Jonathan Sexton, 22 Geordan Murphy.

Russia: 15 Vasily Artemyev, 14 Denis Simplikevich, 13 Andrey Kuzin, 12 Sergey Trishin, 11 Vladimir Ostroushko, 10 Konstantin Rachkov, 9 Alexander Yanyushkin (c), 8 Victor Gresev, 7 Andrey Garbuzov, 6 Artem Fatakhov, 5 Adam Byrnes, 4 Denis Antonov, 3 Alexander Khrokin, 2 Valery Tsnobiladze, 1 Sergey Popov.
Replacements: 16 Evgeny Matveev, 17 Ivan Prishchepenko, 18 Alexey Travkin, 19 Alexander Voytov, 20 Andrey Bykanov, 21 Mikhail Sidorov, 22 Mikhail Babaev.

Date: Sunday, September 25
Kick-off: 18:00 (06:00 GMT)
Weather: Chance of rain, max 13 °C, min 2 °C, southwest breeze
Venue: Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Dave Pearson (England), Jérôme Garces (France)
Television match official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)