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6 Nations

PREVIEW: Ireland Switch Things Up for French Visit

Ireland have made a host of changes to their starting XV for their clash with France

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Ireland have made seven changes to the side that faced Italy two weeks ago as they prepare to welcome France to the Aviva at 3pm on Sunday.

A host of players failed to impress last time out and head coach Joe Schmidt has not held back in wielding the axe on some underperforming stars.

Captain Rory Best returns in the front-row alongside props Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong. While Ian Henderson comes in to partner up with James Ryan in the second-row.

The back-row sees a fit-again CJ Stander at No 8 with the ever-present Peter O’Mahony at six and Josh van der Flier at seven.

Schmidt will be hoping his changes in the pack will not only give Ireland fire-power going forward but reassure the line-out that struggled so much against the Italian’s last time out.

The half-back partnership is as expected with Conor Murray at scrum-half and Johnny Sexton at fly-half. However, the two will need much improved performances after coming under a huge amount of criticism since the visit to Rome.

Bundee Aki continues at inside centre but is joined by the returning Garry Ringrose at outside centre, who will look to provide Ireland with more attacking flare.

The back-three remains the same with Jacob Stockdale on the left wing, Keith Earls on the right and Rob Kearney will win his 90th Irish cap from full-back.

The bench has caused some rumbles with Ultan Dillane being named ahead of Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan pipping Sean O’Brien, and John Cooney retaining his place despite Kieran Marmion’s return to fitness.

The worry for O’Brien is that Dan Leavy, Rhys Ruddock and Jordi Murphy are all vying for a place on the team in the back-row and will be remaining in Ireland post-World Cup unlike O’Brien who will be heading overseas to London Irish. Could this be the beginning of the end of O’Brien’s outstanding time in green?

The other players on the bench are Niall Scannell, who beats Sean Cronin, who himself was dropped from the overall 37-man squad. Scannell is joined by fellow Munster front-rowers Dave Kilcoyne and John Ryan in the reserves.

Connacht’s Jack Carty and Leinster’s Jordan Larmour make up the 23.

Speaking ahead of the game Schmidt told the media about his joy at having some key men back and explained Conan’s inclusion on the bench.

“It’s great to have CJ back, James Ryan, Rory Best, those guys who have been rested from the last game. Jack Conan was initially due to start against Scotland, so we also wanted to give him an opportunity to get a foot in the door and demonstrate what he can do off the bench,” he said.

The French, who named their team on Tuesday, have stuck with the 23 that saw off Scotland during an impressive win in round 3.

That means that it’s Jefferson Poirot, captain Guilhem Guirado and Demba Bamba in the front-row, with Felix Lamby and Sebastien Vahaamhina behind them.

Wenceslas Lauret, Arthur Irturria and Louis Picamoles make up the pack.

Young-guns Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack continue their half-back pairing with Gael Fickou and Mathieu Bastareaud in the centre.

Yoann Huget and Damian Penaud are on the wings, as Thomas Ramos remains at 15 in the unchanged team.

Camille Chat, Baptiste Serin and Maxime Medard are among the replacements ensuring that Ireland will have to be at their best to pull out a win against Les Blues.

As mentioned above the French will be looking to push on from their win over the Scots. That mean Ireland will have to be at their best to stop the men in the blue from causing an upset at the Aviva on Sunday and to keep their championship hopes alive.

6 Nations

Sexton extends contract

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(Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Ireland and Leinster out-half Johnny Sexton has signed a 1 year extension to his IRFU contract up to the end of the 2021/22 season.

The 2018 World Player of the Year took on the Ireland captaincy in January 2020 and is one of Irish rugby’s most decorated players.

He has been central to both Ireland and Leinster’s success for over a decade following his international debut against Fiji in November 2009.

A two time Lions tourist in 2013 and 2017, Johnny has won three Six Nations titles with Ireland and four European Cups with Leinster.  He has represented his provinces on 171 occasions scoring 1505 points.

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, commented,

“Johnny continues to show he has the quality and appetite to compete at the highest levels.  He is playing an important leadership role with the Ireland squad and his insight and experience continues to be of great value to the group.”

Johnny Sexton, commented,

“I am really enjoying my rugby and I want to keep learning and adding value to both the Ireland and Leinster environments.   I am enjoying the challenge of captaincy and the added responsibility that it brings.  My appetite for success is the same as it ever was and the ambitions of both the Ireland and Leinster squads match my own.”

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6 Nations

Ireland release big names back for Provincial derby

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Ulster and Leinster will welcome back a few of their big names for this weekend’s key PRO14 game at the Kingspan Stadium.

The Ireland coaching group will retain a 23 man panel for the two day mini-camp on Thursday and Friday this week at the IRFU High Performance Centre at the Sports Ireland Campus.

The squad dispersed upon return to Ireland on Saturday evening following the win over Italy in Round 3 of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship.    The provinces are involved in Guinness PRO14 interprovincial action this weekend so 13 players have been released to access game time.

Players who picked up knocks over the weekend – Jordan Larmour (hip), Tadgh Furlong (ankle), Dave Kilcoyne (HIA) and Ronan Kelleher (ankle) have continued their recovery under the supervision of the national medical team and will be further assessed later in the week.

The 13 players returning to their provincial bubbles to avail of game time in the Guinness PRO14 this weekend are – Bundee Aki, Ultan Dillane, Dave Heffernan (Connacht),  Ed Byrne, Ross ByrneRhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier (Leinster), Craig CaseyAndrew ConwayShane DalyChris Farrell (Munster) and Stuart McCloskeyTom O’Toole (Ulster).

Ireland Squad (Two Day Camp, March 4/5, IRFU High Performance Centre

Backs
Billy Burns (Ulster) 6 caps
Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 91 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 8 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 50 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 9 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 27 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 5 caps
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 88 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 33 caps
Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 97 caps

Forwards
Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 1 cap
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 20 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 18 caps
Will Connors (Leinster/UCD) 8 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 47 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 107 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 61 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 19 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 9 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 41 caps
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 35 caps
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 34 caps
CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 49 caps

Returning to Provinces

Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 30 caps
Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 4 caps
Ross Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 12 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 1 cap
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 24 caps
Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Con) 1 cap
Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians) 18 caps
Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster) 14 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 5 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 4 caps
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) uncapped
Rhys Ruddock (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 27 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 30 caps

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6 Nations

Ireland Make Seven Changes For Italy

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(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

The Ireland coaching group have made seven changes to the side that started against France in round 2 of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship. There are two uncapped players in the replacements.

Craig Casey, who was on the bench for the game against France, and Ryan Baird are in line for their first international caps in Stadio Olimpico on Saturday afternoon.

Johnny Sexton returns to captain the side and partners Jamison Gibson Park in the halfbacks.

This weekend has come too soon for Conor Murray who is continuing his hamstring rehab.

Robbie Henshaw, who earns his 50th cap for Ireland, will again partner Garry Ringrose in the midfield. Henshaw made his Ireland debut against USA on the 2013 Summer Tour, a few days before his 20th birthday.

Hugo Keenan retains the No.15 jersey with James Lowe on the left wing and Jordan Larmour coming in on the right hand side.

A new front row combination of Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher and Tadgh Furlong is set to start.

James Ryan returns to the second row to partner  Iain Henderson.

Tadgh Beirne shifts to the backrow filling the blindside role with Will Connors at openside and CJ Stander at No.8.

The replacements for the weekend are Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Jack Conan, Billy Burns, Keith Earls and the uncapped duo of Baird and Casey

IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Italy, 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship, Stadio Olimpico , Saturday, February 27, kick-off 2:15pm):

Player/Club/Province/Caps –

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 8 caps
14. Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 26 caps
13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 32 caps
12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 49 caps
11. James Lowe (Leinster) 4 caps
10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 96 caps CAPTAIN
9.
 Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 7 caps
1. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 40 caps
2. Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 8 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 46 caps
4. Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 60 caps
5. James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 33 caps
6. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 19 caps
7. Will Connors (Leinster/UCD) 7 caps
8. CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 48 caps

Replacements

16. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 18 caps
17. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 106 caps
18. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 34 caps
19. Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) uncapped
20. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 17 caps
21. Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) uncapped
22. Billy Burns (Ulster) 5 caps
23. Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 90 caps

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