Andy Farrell makes three changes to his Grand Slam-chasing Ireland side to face England for their Six Nations finale… with Ryan Baird, Jamison Gibson-Park and Robbie Henshaw making the first starts of the tournament
- Head coach Farrell makes two forced changes after injuries against Scotland
- Jamison Gibson-Park is favoured over Conor Murray after strong impact display
- Captain Johnny Sexton could break record as all-time record points scorer
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has made three changes to his starting XV ahead of his side’s Grand Slam decider against England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
Ryan Baird, Jamison Gibson-Park and Robbie Hensaw will make their first starts of the Six Nations campaign in Dublin, with Baird and Henshaw replacing the injured pair Iain Henderson and Garry Ringrose, who have arm and head injuries respectively.
Henderson and Ringrose were casualties of last week’s bruising 22-7 away victory at Murrayfield against Scotland.
Gibson-Park is Farrell’s only unforced change, with his coach preferring the scum-half over Conor Murray after an impressive performance off the bench in Edinburgh.
There were question marks over Dan Sheehan and Caelan Doris’s fitness after they were taken off against Scotland, but they have been declared fit and will start.
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell made two forced and one unforced change ahead of Saturday
Robbie Henshaw has been handed his first start in this year’s Six Nation in Ireland’s decider
Ryan Baird pictured in action on Sunday in Ireland’s hard-fought battle against Scotland
But Farrell’s second choice at number two, Ronan Kelleher, is still suffering with a shoulder issue and is ruled out.
Rob Herring, Kieran Treadwell, and Jimmy O’Brien are new additions to the Irish bench.
Ireland have the chance to complete their fourth championship clean sheet with victory over a depleted England side, likely scarred by last weekend’s 53-10 thrashing at the hands of France.
Fly-half Johnny Sexton will captain the team once again and earn his 60th cap on Irish soil leading out his country.
This will be Sexton’s final Six Nations tie, and lifting silverware would be the icing on the cake.
The captain may also have an eye on breaking records: as the joint all-time points scorer in the tournament’s history, gains against England would leave an impressive legacy.
Scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park is favoured as Conor Murray drops down the pecking order
Captain Johnny Sexton can cap his Six Nations career with a record-breaking achievement
Farrell has made no changes to his front row, where Andrew Porter lines up alongside Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong, with Baird and James Ryan behind them in the second row.
World player of the year Josh Van Der Flier, who will earn his 50th cap in the match joins Peter O’Mahony and Doris in the back row.
Bundee Aki and Henshaw, who missed the start of the competition with a wrist injury, are the midfield pairing, with James Lowe, Hugo Keenan and Mack Hansen continuing as head coach Farrell’s back three.
Cian Healy, Tom O’Toole, Jack Conan and Ross Byrne complete the list of replacements.
IRELAND’S TEAM TO FACE ENGLAND IN SIX NATIONS FINALE
H Keenan (Leinster), M Hansen (Connacht), R Henshaw (Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Lowe (Leinster), J Sexton (Leinster, capt), J Gibson-Park (Leinster); A Porter (Leinster), D Sheehan (Leinster), T Furlong (Leinster), R Baird (Leinster), J Ryan (Leinster), P O’Mahony (Munster), J Van Der Flier (Leinster), C Doris (Leinster).
Replacements: R Herring (Ulster), C Healy (Leinster), T O’Toole (Ulster), K Treadwell (Ulster), J Conan (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), R Byrne (Leinster), J O’Brien (Leinster).
Date: Saturday March 18
The Aviva Stadium, Dublin (5pm KO)
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