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Four changes for Ireland including fresh set of half-backs

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Andy Farrell has made four changes to his Ireland team to play France on Sunday in Dublin in round two of the Guinness Six Nations following last Sunday’s 16-21 opening round defeat to Wales in Cardiff.

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Peter O’Mahony’s three-match suspension for his red card against the Welsh meant a change would be needed at blindside, but the inclusion of Rhys Ruddock for his first Test start since October 2019 – and a first Six Nations start at the age of 30 – hasn’t been the only alteration to Farrell’s line-up as there are new half-backs and a new captain at second row.

Concussion return to play protocols have ruled out skipper Johnny Sexton and James Ryan. Billy Burns comes in out-half with Iain Henderson starting at lock and taking over the captaincy from Sexton.

Video Spacer

Johnny Sexton gives the latest update from the Ireland camp

Video Spacer

Johnny Sexton gives the latest update from the Ireland camp

The fourth change sees Conor Murray drop out at scrum-half due to a hamstring injury picked at training. His spot goes to Jamison Gibson-Park with the uncapped Craig Casey providing cover on the bench.

Other changes in the replacements see Ed Byrne promoted as back-up loosehead in preference to Dave Kilcoyne, Ultan Dillane takes over from the starting Henderson and Ross Byrne will cover the bench spot vacated by new No10 Burns whose single previous start in his four-cap Test career came against Georgia last November.

IRELAND (vs France, Sunday)
15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 7 caps
14. Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 89 caps
13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 31 caps
12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 48 caps
11. James Lowe (Leinster) 3 caps
10. Billy Burns (Ulster) 4 caps
9. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 6 caps
1. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 105 caps
2. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 17 caps
3. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 33 caps
4. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 18 caps
5. Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 59 caps CAPTAIN
6. Rhys Ruddock (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 26 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 29 caps
8. CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 47 caps
Replacements
16. Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 7 caps
17. Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 3 caps
18. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 45 caps
19. Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians) 17 caps
20. Will Connors (Leinster/UCD) 6 caps
21. Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) uncapped
22. Ross Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 11 caps
23. Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 25 caps

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Jon 1 hours ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

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