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'We're looking forward to him progressing in the big games for Leinster'

James Lowe drops out of the Ireland matchday 23 for the clash with England.

James Lowe drops out of Ireland's matchday 23.
James Lowe drops out of Ireland's matchday 23.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

IRELAND BOSS ANDY Farrell has challenged James Lowe to make a point back with Leinster in the coming weeks and months after dropping the wing from his squad to face England in the Six Nations on Saturday.

Lowe started all four of Ireland’s Six Nations games up to this point but has been left out of the matchday 23 altogether for this weekend as Jacob Stockdale returns having recovered fully from a recent knee injury.

Lowe had a particularly tough afternoon last time out against Scotland and Farrell indicated that the 28-year-old still has lots to learn.

“With James, there’s obviously a few things that we’ve talked about over the series really, over the Six Nations,” said Farrell today.

“He’s very young in terms of international experience is concerned, he’s learned a lot in this Six Nations and we’re looking forward to him progressing in the big games for Leinster in the coming weeks.”

Stockdale’s return is one of six personnel changes to the Ireland team for this weekend as Farrell looks to finish the championship with a rousing win over England.

Conor Murray is back at scrum-half in place of Jamison Gibson-Park and although the Munster man hasn’t played in six weeks due to a hamstring injury and then Farrell’s decision not to use him off the bench last weekend, the Ireland boss expects a big performance.

“Conor has another week behind him, training-wise, so he’s fresh and fit and raring to go,” said Farrell. “He’s a big-game player.”

Bundee Aki comes into the midfield in place of the injured Garry Ringrose, meaning Robbie Henshaw shifts out to the number 13 shirt.

Up front, Tadhg Beirne moves from blindside flanker into the second row in place of the injured James Ryan, while an unlucky knee injury to openside Will Connors means he also misses out.

“He’s unbelievably unfortunate, Will,” said Farrell. “He’s had a great tournament and he’s really progressed. Again, he’s young in terms of international rugby but he is certainly on an upward curve.

“It was something of nothing at the end of training. He was doing some extras at the end of training, he came down in an awkward position on his knee.

“He’s being assessed but he was ruled out straight away, within a few hours, by our medics. He’ll have some more checks in the coming days, I’m sure, he’s back home with Leinster.”

Josh van der Flier comes in at openside as a result, while Jack Conan is promoted off the bench into the number eight shirt, meaning CJ Stander shifts to the blindside for what is likely to be his final Ireland cap before retirement.

“Josh has been unlucky not to start a few more games than what he has because he’s in great form himself,” said Farrell of his back row selection.

“When you tell a player that he’s not playing, sometimes you get a reaction in training and you go ‘Jeez, I wish I had picked him’ and Josh has been brimming like that for a good few weeks. It’s like-for-like there, coming in.


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“CJ will 100% just be himself, he’s never any different. He’s the most consistent player week in, week out.

“Jack adds something different, doesn’t he? A bit of dynamism at the back of the scrum. He’s in great form coming back from injury, he’ll be brimming to make a statement to say that he’s back on the international scene.”

Finally, there is a change at loosehead prop as Dave Kilcoyne gets the nod ahead of the more experienced Cian Healy.

“Dave Kilcoyne has been great,” said Farrell of that decision. “Obviously, he hasn’t had that much game time, but he’s been great in training.

“His set-piece has been going really well and we all know that a six-day turnaround is a big thing in international rugby with less time to recover. There was always a little bit of thinking like that in the back of the mind.” 

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Murray Kinsella

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