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Debut for Lowry as Ireland change six but Sexton given bench role

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

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Ireland boss Andy Farrell has made six changes to his team to take on Italy this Sunday in the Guinness Six Nations, handing a debut at full-back to Michael Lowry but resisting the temptation to reinstate fit-again squad skipper Johnny Sexton as his starting out-half for the round three game in Dublin. 

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The veteran half-back was expected to be the Irish No10 in the team to play France last time out. However, he suffered a hamstring injury on the training ground on the Wednesday before that Saturday match and it resulted in Farrell instead starting Joey Carbery. 

Despite being first capped in November 2016, it was remarkably Carbery’s first-ever Six Nations start and now, just like the buses arriving all at once, he will enjoy a second championship start in quick succession. 

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The Test level backup wasn’t found wanting in the 24-30 defeat in Paris, Carbery emerging with his reputation very much enhanced, and Farrell has now given his development a vote of confidence by keeping him in the team at the starting ten and restricting the fit-again Sexton to a bench role. 

As correctly reported by RugbyPass on Thursday night, there are three backline changes from the loss at the Stade de France, Lowry taking over from Hugo Keenan at full-back, fit-again James Lowe coming onto the left wing with Mack Hansen switching to the right where Andrew Conway drops out, while Robbie Henshaw is in for Bundee Aki at inside centre. 

The same number of alterations have been made to the pack. Capped previously as a sub, Dan Sheehan makes his first start at hooker in place of the injured Roan Kelleher, Ryan Baird comes in at second row for James Ryan, while Peter O’Mahony starts at blindside with Caelan Doris switching to No8 as Jack Conan drops to the bench.  

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In the replacements, Lions skipper Conor Murray loses out altogether as the sub scrum-half will instead be Craig Casey. Kieran Treadwell also makes the bench with Iain Henderson ruled out with a virus.  

Italy named their team earlier on Friday, an XV showing three changes from the 0-33 loss to England last time out. Pierre Bruno comes onto the wing for Federico Mori, Leonardo Marin starts at centre for Marco Zanon, and Giovanni Pettinelli takes over at blindside from Braam Steyn.

IRELAND (vs Italy, Sunday) 
15. Michael Lowry (Ulster/Banbridge) uncapped
14. Mack Hansen (Connacht) 2 caps
13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 39 caps
12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 54 caps
11. James Lowe (Leinster) 9 caps
10. Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 29 caps
9. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 14 caps
1. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 42 caps
2. Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 4 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 54 caps
4. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 27 caps
5. Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 7 caps
6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 81 caps CAPTAIN
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 37 caps
8. Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 14 caps

Replacements:
16. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 23 caps
17. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 45 caps
18. Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 20 caps
19. Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) 3 caps
20. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 24 caps
21. Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 4 caps
22. Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 102 caps
23. James Hume (Ulster/Banbridge) 2 caps

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