Red hot favourites Ireland (1/50 Bet 365) will be hoping new fly half Jonathon Sexton will be on fire when they face Fiji this afternoon.
Six days after battling back to snatch a draw against Australia Sexton comes in as one of eight changes from that team. Many consider the Leinster playmaker to be the heir apparent to Ronan O Gara with some even suggesting the changing of the ‘Gar’d’ could happen sooner rather than later given Sexton’s early season form. The youngster will certainly be in familiar company with the match being played at Leinster’s RDS Showground and the backline containing six Leinster players.
With so much familiarity among the backs Ireland should be confident of creating chances and Shane Horgan, recalled for the rested Tommy Bowe, is 8/1(Paddy Power) to open the scoring with his 21st international try, although the heavy rain forecast for Saturday evening in Dublin may force Ireland to opt for a safer game plan involving more emphasis on their forwards. If so then a better bet for first try could be Jamie Heaslip (16/1 Paddy Power) who was the only forward in last season 6 Nations to score more than one try.
Fiji, outsiders at 12/1 (Ladbrokes) to gain their maiden win over Ireland, were disappointing against Scotland last week who restricted their possession thus limiting their attacking opportunities through an effective forward based game and it is hard to see how they will threaten a stronger looking Ireland side. The weather will almost certainly not help Fiji’s style of running rugby and with the lack of an effective set piece they will have to break the Leinster backline that won the European cup this season to triumph.
Whatever style of play the weather dictates they play, Ireland should be strong enough to overcome their opponents without too many scares. A comfortable win by 16-20 points (6/1 Ladbrokes) will leave the Flying Fijians well and truly grounded. If you fancy Ireland to pull clear after half time, bet365 offer 4/6 that the second half produces the most points.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Shane Horgan, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (captain), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Denis Leamy, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Leo Cullen, 3 John Hayes, 2 Jerry Flannery, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tony Buckley, 18 Donncha O'Callaghan, 19 Sean O'Brien, 20 Tomas O'Leary, 21 Paddy Wallace, 22 Andrew Trimble.
Fiji: 15 Norman Ligairi, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Gabiriele Lovobalavu, 12 Seremaia Bai (captain), 11 Nasoni Roko, 10 Nicky Little, 9 Mosese Rauluni, 8 Asaeli Boko, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Apolosi Satala; 5 Ifereimi Rawaqa, 4 Wame Lewaravu, 3 Viliame Seuseu, 2 Viliame Veikoso, 1 Asaike Tarogi.
Replacements: 16 Isireli Ledua, 17 Graham Dewes, 18 Leone Nakarawa, 19 Samu Bola, 20 Waisale Vatuvoka, 21 Josh Matavesi, 22 Timoci Nagusa