Andy Farrell’s decision to back Billy Burns this week against France in the Guinness Six Nations has been praised by the Irish public.

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The Ulster outhalf replaces Johnny Sexton as one of four forced changes to the starting XV that lost to Wales 21-16 last Sunday.

The loss ended on an unfortunate note for Ireland and Burns, whose kick to corner in the final play of the game went dead, preventing a 14-man Ireland from having a chance to snatch victory at the end.
The week took a sour turn for the four-cap No10 in the wake of his error, as he faced a barrage of abuse online, which included trolls editing his Wikipedia page.

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But with Sexton out with a head injury sustained during the Wales match, Burns has been backed by Farrell and the Irish public to respond this week. The 26-year-old starts ahead of Ross Byrne at the Aviva Stadium, who will start on the bench.

Then again, a French team that are now favourites to win the tournament are a tough opponent for any player who may be slightly low on confidence, particularly in what is only Burns’ second start for Ireland (the first being against Georgia in the autumn). But that only adds to the redemption story.

Elsewhere, the inclusion of Rhys Ruddock at blindside flanker in the place of the suspended Peter O’Mahony has been welcomed. The Leinster flanker’s absence from the matchday 23 was met with indignation last week following his spellbinding form in the Guinness PRO14.

Iain Henderson also replaces James Ryan in the starting line-up, who is another player with a head injury. The Ulster lock will captain Ireland for the first time. A hamstring injury has also ruled Conor Murray out of contention, and he has been replaced by Jamison Gibson-Park.

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