FERRIS FREE TO PLAY

Stephen Ferris is free to play for Ireland in Paris this Saturday after escaping punishment in a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday.

The flanker was sin-binned and cited for a tackle on Wales forward Ian Evans in the dying minutes of Sunday’s 23-21 defeat.

The subsequent penalty allowed Leigh Halfpenny to kick Wales to victory in a dramatic climax in Dublin, and a ban for Ferris would have added salt to Irish wounds.
However, a Six Nations statement explained how after careful analysis it was decided the tackle “did not uphold the citing”.

Ferris expressed his relief on Twitter, saying: “Thank goodness that is all over. Happy man.”

Wales lock Bradley Davies has received a seven-week ban for a dangerous tip tackle in the same game. In worse news for Ireland, fly-half Jonny Sexton is a doubt after suffering a thigh injury in kicking practice.

Ronan O’Gara is now set to start, while Keith Earls is the only other change to the starting line-up for the challenging trip to Paris.

Earls missed the narrow Wales defeat as his newly-born daughter was unwell, but comes straight back into the team to replace Leinster’s Fergus McFadden.

Paddy Wallace, who was set to play club rugby this weekend, has also been called up to the squad to provide cover.
Irish journeys to the French capital have rarely been fruitful, as they have won there just once since 1972.

In addition, in 12 meetings at all venues since 2003 Ireland have been on the winning side only once – in 2008, the year of their first Grand Slam since 1948.

Second-row Paul O’Connell will continue as captain in the absence of talismanic leader and record Six Nations try-scorer Brian O’Driscoll.

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