Rugby Union: FINISH ON A HIGH; INTERNATIONAL RUGBY: IRELAND V PACIFIC ISLANDS, LANSDOWNE ROAD, TOMORROW, 2.45 O'Sullivan: There Will Be a Lot of Nostalgia before the Old Stadium Is Razed
Byline: Michael SCULLY Chief Sports Writer
IRELAND are aiming to go out with a bang at Lansdowne Road tomorrow - before the demolition crews get to work on the old place.
A side featuring nine changes from last week's victory over Australia -as well as three new caps - will take on the Pacific Islanders in a bid to make it a clean sweep in the Autumn international series.
Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan admits that the weight of history is on the shoulders of the players he will send into the fray.
"Obviously it's the last game in Lansdowe Road, there's a bit of nostalgia there for everyone," O'Sullivan said yesterday.
"There are some great memories for everybody. But it would great on Sunday to go out with a win.
"The plan is to do that anyway and I think the team is there to do it."
In fairness, it's an exciting team line-up that O'Sullivan has decided to go with - and if it goes wrong, six of the players who featured so prominently against the Wallabies are on the bench to fix things.
The focus will be on the performances of debut boys Luke Fitzgerald, Stephen Ferris and Jamie Heaslip.
While Fitzgerald and Ferris have exploded onto the scene in recent months, Heaslip has been quietly going about his business in the back row and the Naas native now gets his chance.
"I have been working hard for a year and I am delighted to get the call, especially with such a competitive back row that Ireland have," the 22-year-old said.
"It's a chance to show my trade and, hopefully, I can impress a couple of people.
"Getting the ball in my hands would be the big thing for me, with the support of the home crowd behind us.
"I am used to it with Leinster because I have played there a good few times with them".
However the biggest spotlight will be on Paddy Wallace, who at 27 will feel he is earning a very belated call-up.
Wallace has been featuring at centre for Ulster this season but O'Sullivan needs to find back up for his star out-half Ronan O'Gara, and that's why Wallace, a natural no 10, is getting his chance.
Another Ulsterman who is finding his feet at this level is Bryan Young, who made his first start at test level in the 21-6 defeat of Australia.
With Marcus Horan out until the new year with a torn calf muscle, it's a chance for the confident prop to put down a marker.
"To be fair, Marcus does a great job and he was outstanding against South Africa but I think with the World Cup coming up Eddie needs to test guys out - and I hadn't really been tested at that level," said Young.
The bustling front row player is known for his versatility - he can play at loose-head or tight-head - but it's not something that sits well with him.
"I don't really want to have that kind of label," admitted Young.
"I don't want to be the guy who can play either side so he's good to have on the bench.
"In international rugby, it's massively tough out there. Our scrum has come under a lot of criticism -unfairly, probably, some of it - but it's never going to be easy.
"The pace went up from what I was used to before against Australia but I was well equipped for that.
"I thought that I got around quite well and I was reading the game. As far as I was concerned I thought I did alright.
"There's no restbite, really, you just have to keep working hard - and if you don't work hard you're going to be targetted, that is where the opposition are going to go and make a line-break," he added. …