Ireland have made four changes to their team to face Wales this Sunday in the Guinness Six Nations in their first match since the Autumn Nations Cup third-place playoff win over Scotland in December. James Lowe, Garry Ringrose, Tadhg Beirne and Josh van der Flier are all chosen to start at the expense of Jacob Stockdale, Bundee Aki, Iain Henderson and Caelan Doris.

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Stockdale was omitted from the squad picked last month by Andy Farrell and his spot at full-back is taken by Hugo Keenan who moves from the right wing, a reshuffle that sees Keith Earls switch from left to the right to accommodate Lowe.

The second change in the backline selection comes at midfield where Aki, a near ever-present at No12 since he first qualified under residency in 2017, loses out to the fit-again Ringrose who will play at No13 with Robbie Henshaw, his Leinster colleague, taking over the Aki role. It’s a first start for the pair together at Test level since the 2019 World Cup quarter-final loss to New Zealand.

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Jonny Wilkinson and Gregor Townsend guest on RugbyPass All Access ahead of Saturday’s Calcutta Cup match

Johnny Sexton will captain the side as he competes in his twelfth Six Nations championship. He is joined in the half-backs by Conor Murray who is one of five players from the matchday squad who played in Ireland’s last Six Nations victory in Cardiff in 2013 (Murray, Sexton, Cian Healy, Peter O’Mahony and Earls).

In the pack, the front row is along expected lines, Healy making his 50th championship appearance and being joined by Rob Herring and Andrew Porter.

The recalled Beirne gets in ahead of the benched Henderson to partner James Ryan at lock while the place of the concussed Doris in the back row is taken by van der Flier, a selection that sees CJ Stander move from No6 to No8 while O’Mahony switches from openside to blindside.

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The replacements are Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Tadgh Furlong, Henderson, Will Connors, Jamison Gibson-Park, Billy Burns and Jordan Larmour.

IRELAND (vs Wales, Sunday)
15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 6 caps
14. Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 88 caps
13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 30 caps
12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 47 caps
11. James Lowe (Leinster) 2 caps
10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 95 caps Capt
9. Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 87 caps
1. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 104 caps
2. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 16 caps
3. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 32 caps
4. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 17 caps
5. James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 32 caps
6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 73 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 28 caps
8. CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 46 caps

Replacements
16. Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 6 caps
17. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 39 caps
18. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 44 caps
19. Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 58 caps
20. Will Connors (Leinster/UCD) 5 caps
21. Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster) 5 caps
22. Billy Burns (Ulster) 3 caps
23. Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 24 caps

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