Zebo out McFadden in for wounded Irish

Fergus McFadden has been drafted into Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations squad to face France, with Simon Zebo unable to overcome his knee injury.

Johnny Sexton and Andrew Trimble have won their fitness battles to face Les Bleus at the Stade de France on Saturday.

Ireland took the unusual step of delaying their team selection until after Thursday’s training session, such was the size and importance of the walking-wounded contingent.

Munster flyer Zebo’s failure to beat his knee problem hands Leinster wing Dave Kearney a starting berth, with his provincial colleague McFadden drafted onto the bench.

Keith Earls was unable to recover from his suspected concussion too, leading to Ireland’s late reshuffle.

“We were just trying to clarify the fitness of Simon Zebo and Keith Earls, both of whom we have left out of the squad,” boss Joe Schmidt said.

“They got through training and at the same time we just felt they weren’t 100 per cent fit.

“We just felt it was a risk.”

McFadden was overlooked for Ireland’s initial Six Nations squad, and was slated to feature for Leinster against Zebre on Friday night.

The 29-year-old was brought into Ireland’s training ranks in midweek, to cover Earls’ absence due to suspected concussion.

The Leinster speedster was still expected to return to club duties even on Thursday morning, only for Zebo to suffer a last-minute setback.

Flanker Sean O’Brien and full-back Rob Kearney have battled back in time to return to Schmidt’s starting line-up in Paris.

Inspirational fly-half Sexton suffered a heavy blow to the chest in Sunday’s 16-16 draw with Wales in Dublin, while Trimble has fended off a shoulder problem and Zebo a knee knock.

Stalwart full-back Rob Kearney’s return after hamstring trouble offsets the loss of wing Earls, who suffered a head injury towards the end of last weekend’s game.

Leinster’s bullish back-rower O’Brien has also beaten his own hamstring complaint to be restored to Ireland’s loose-forward cordon.

Team: Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien, CJ Stander, Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy, Nathan White, Rory Best (capt), Jack McGrath. Reserves: Richard Strauss, James Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Donnacha Ryan, Tommy O’Donnell, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Fergus McFadden.

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