Six Nations 2015: 'Luke Fitzgerald will bring real freshness'

Luke Fitzgerald poised to make first start for Ireland since 2011 against Scotland on Saturday
Luke Fitzgerald poised to make first start for Ireland since 2011 against Scotland on Saturday
RBS Six Nations: Scotland v Ireland
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh Date: Saturday, 21 March. Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, Radio Ulster, online, mobile, the BBC Sport app and Connected TV.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is backing Luke Fitzgerald to shine on his long-awaited return to Test rugby.

The Leinster back's last start for Ireland was a World Cup warm-up against France in 2011 before a succession of injuries blighted his career.

Fitzgerald, 27, replaces Simon Zebo in the side for Saturday's crunch Six Nations finale against Scotland.

"He will bring a real freshness, he's been champing at the bit for a while," said Schmidt.

Fitzgerald was regarded as the heir to Brian O'Driscoll's number 13 jersey when he burst onto the scene in 2006, winning his first cap against the Pacific Islands.

However a career-threatening neck problem, knee surgery, hip and abductor problems have curtailed his progression.

Luke Fitzgerald makes long-awaited comeback for Ireland on Saturday
Luke Fitzgerald makes long-awaited comeback for Ireland on Saturday

He has recently shone at outside centre for Leinster but Schmidt clearly regards him as a left wing option at present.

"He's a natural left footer so coming in on the left wing it means that left-footed kicking option that we have, and the ability to play down that left-hand touch a little bit," said the Irish head coach.

"It has been a very long road back for Luke but he has an exuberance and positivity that make it difficult to keep (him) down for long periods.

"Obviously injury forced him away for long periods, but he's very keen to make it back.

"That resilience is something we'll need."

Ireland have only scored four tries in this Six Nations campaign so far, compared to sixteen at the same stage last year when they went on to clinch the championship with a narrow victory in Paris.

Fitzgerald will hope to make an impact offensively against Scotland and while Schmidt admitted Simon Zebo was disappointed to miss out on selection, insisted the Munster wing was suffering "wear and tear" from starting the first four matches of the tournament.

"Simon's got a few niggles, and so we just wanted to have someone who was at 100 per cent, as opposed to someone who has fitted in really well but was just starting to show signs of wear and tear," said Schmidt.

"I don't think a player ever feels they need a rest to be honest.

"Players want to keep going and win us Test matches.

"They want to be there, there's a bit of disappointment and at the same time there's a little bit of relief because he has been showing signs of wear and tear."

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