Rory Best has been named in the Ireland team to play Wales on Saturday but his chances of playing in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final remain slim.
The Ulster hooker is part of an unchanged side selected by coach Declan Kidney ahead of the Celtic derby last eight clash in New Zealand.
That means Ronan O’Gara continues at out-half ahead of Jonathon Sexton as Kidney remains loyal to the players who beat Italy last time out.
Best is continuing to receive intensive treatment on the shoulder injury picked up during the win over Italy in Dunedin last Sunday and the coach will give him as much time as possible to recover.
“We have to put a team in 48 hours before kick-off. The decision could go right to the end, we’ll make it when we have to make it,” said Kidney who also confirmed that Best had been able to play some part in training on Thursday.
“I wouldn’t want to tempt fate by rating Rory’s chances, but he’s not ruled out which is always the first sign. He had a good day yesterday which everyone was very positive about. He’s making great progress and we’re taking it one day at a time.”
If Best fails to make it, Sean Cronin will be promoted from the bench with Damien Varley called into the replacements.
The Irish team is unchanged otherwise with Munster’s O’Gara and Murray again getting the nod ahead of Leinster’s Sexton and Eoin Reddan.
Kidney added: “Half-back is the most competitive area of the team. I know it’s unconventional to use different half-backs at different times.
“When they’ve been on the pitch they’ve brought their own things to it. For example Jonathan was hugely strong for us in defence in the last 10 minutes against Italy.
“Eoin robbed two great balls for us in the last 10-15 minutes. Leaving them out isn’t easy, but Conor and Ronan have gone quite well for us.”
Wales look set to target O’Gara, a tactic they have used in the Six Nations in the recent past, but Kidney is unconcerned about their plans.
He stated: “They have quite an array of places where they can attack; I don’t think they’ll pick anyone in particular.
“Wales are a better side now because before you knew where they would attack, but now they attack other places too. It’s going to be a case of everyone defending their own zone.
“Playing Wales is a huge challenge. They got the better of us in March and are going well. They only lost to the kick of a ball against South Africa, otherwise they’d be on four wins from four games.
“They beat England and Argentina during the warm up games as well. They have a few younger players who have brought their own spark. The senior guys are showing good form too.
“They’re showing different trends in the way they play, but are more unpredictable than before. If it was possible to read them before, it’s more difficult now.”
Ireland team v Wales: Kearney; Bowe, O’Driscoll, D’Arcy, Earls; O’Gara, Murray; Healy, Best, Ross, O’Callaghan, O’Connell, O’Brien, Ferris, Heaslip. Replacements – Cronin, Court, Ryan, Leamy, Reddan, Sexton, Trimble.
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