Ireland open their 2021 Six Nations campaign by travelling to face Wales in Cardiff on Sunday, February 7 (3pm kick-off). Tadhg Beirne starts in the second row, Josh van der Flier at openside flanker, James Lowe on the wing and Hugo Keenan at full-back. Tadhg Furlong returns to the bench.
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 05/02/21 11:44am
Andy Farrell has brought Tadhg Beirne and Josh van der Flier into his forward pack, and added fit-again wing James Lowe to his Ireland squad to face Wales in Cardiff on Sunday.
With Leinster back-row Caelan Doris (concussion) and Connacht lock Quinn Roux (neck) having withdrawn from the Ireland squad this week due to injury, Munster second row Beirne is in to partner James Ryan, with Ulster’s Iain Henderson fit enough for the bench after his knee injury.
The back-row is completely reconfigured in the absence of No 8 Doris, with CJ Stander shifting from the blindside to the back of the scrum, Peter O’Mahony from the openside to blindside and Van der Flier seeing off the likes of Rhys Ruddock and Will Connors (who is a replacement) to start at seven.
Within the front row, Cian Healy, Rob Herring and Andrew Porter combine, with Dave Kilcoyne and Tadhg Furlong both returning to the bench from injury for the first time since last year’s Six Nations championship. Ronan Kelleher provides hooker cover.
In the backs, Hugo Keenan starts at full-back with Jacob Stockdale injured and Jordan Larmour on the bench, while Keith Earls and Lowe start on the respective wings.
The half-back pairing is the tried and tested partnership of Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton, with the latter captaining the side having overcome a hamstring injury. Leinster scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park and Ulster 10 Billy Burns provide replacement cover.
In midfield, Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose start in the centres after winning selection battles with Connacht’s Bundee Aki and Munster’s Chris Farrell.
Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray; 1 Cian Healy, 2 Rob Herring, 3 Andrew Porter, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 5 James Ryan, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 7 Josh van der Flier, 8 CJ Stander.
Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Will Connors, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Jordan Larmour.