Ireland head coach Declan Kidney has yet to name a blindside flanker for Saturday’s mouth-watering Six Nations clash with France.
Kidney has left a space in the No6 shirt which he hopes will be filled by inspirational Ulster star Stephen Ferris.
The 2009 Lion missed last week’s opening round win over Italy with a knee injury but he returned to training yesterday.
Previously uncapped Kevin McLaughlin featured in Ferris’ place during the 29-11 victory over the Azzurri at Croke Park and the 25-year-old is favourite to step into the breach once more if Ferris is again ruled out.
Kidney must officially confirm his matchday 22 by Thursday but he intends to give Ferris as much time as possible to prove his fitness ahead of the trip to Paris.
"We’ll make a decision as soon as we can with Stephen, but sometimes you don’t make a decision until you have to," said Kidney.
“Kevin went well last week. It’s asking a lot of Kevin’s generosity to hold off and give Stephen a bit of time, but I just feel that Stephen has that little bit of experience on Kevin at the moment, so that’s why we’re just giving him time.”
Munster’s Keith Earls is the only confirmed change to the starting line up, with the versatile youngster replacing Ulster’s Andrew Trimble on the left wing.
Trimble strained a hamstring last time out but he has been named among a lengthy list of replacements which will be cut to seven by tomorrow.
"I wanted to give Andrew a go to see how he went last week. He went well but Keith deserves his go now,” added Kidney.
"Andrew tweaked his hamstring and we want to give him full time to recover."
Ronan O’Gara wins the battle for the fly-half shirt despite Jonathan Sexton being deemed fit enough to be named among an extended group of nine substitutes.
Ulster’s Paddy Wallace, who came on as a replacement against the Italians is also handed an initial place on the bench.
"Ronan had a very good game against Italy so there was no reason not to play him this week," explained Kidney.
"Jon has been making a good recovery and the final stage of that should be achieved tomorrow when he goes place kicking.
"We’re in the lucky position of having two good fly-halves and Ronan’s experience will be more than helpful going to Paris."
Donncha O’Callaghan is still absent through injury so Leo Cullen continues in the second row, while Paul O’Connell has overcome his blurred vision to retain his place in the No5 shirt.
Only three members of the Irish squad have tasted international success in Paris, with O’Gara, John Hayes and Brian O’Driscoll all having featured in a memorable 27-25 win 10 years ago.
Ireland squad to face France on Saturday, February 13
15 Rob Kearney (Leinster)
14 Tommy Bowe (Ospreys)
13 Brian O’Driscoll (captain, Leinster)
12 Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster)
11 Keith Earls (Munster)
10 Ronan O’Gara (Munster)
9 Tomas O’Leary (Munster)
1 Cian Healy (Leinster)
2 Jerry Flannery (Munster)
3 John Hayes (Munster)
4 Leo Cullen (Leinster)
5 Paul O’Connell (Munster)
6 AN Other
7 David Wallace (Munster)
8 Jamie Heaslip (Leinster)
Rory Best (Ulster) Tom Court (Ulster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Sean O’Brien (Leinster), Kevin McLaughlin (Leinster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Paddy Wallace (Ulster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster)