Henshaw in training this week. Bryan Keane/INPHO

Henshaw displaces Kearney, O'Brien on the bench as Ireland open Six Nations defence against England

O’Brien missed the November win over New Zealand with an arm injury, but is back for the clash with England.

IRELAND WILL UNLEASH 13 of the team who defeated New Zealand again when they open their Six Nations defence against England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday (kick-0ff 16.45).

The two changes to the starting XV come at fullback, where Rob Kearney’s iffy form on return from injury see him displaced by Robbie Henshaw, and at scrum-half after Conor Murray missed November with a neck injury.

Head coach Joe Schmidt announced the squad at the Aviva Stadium today after team training was moved from their Carton House base due to the potential for snow disrupting train in Maynooth.

Henshaw’s inclusion means Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose reform their centre partnership, while Josh van der Flier’s continued excellent form keeps him ahead of Sean O’Brien in a competitive race for the openside jersey.

O’Brien broke his arm during Ireland’s November win over Argentina, but returned to play a part in Leinster’s Champions Cup win over Wasps.

Injuries to Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne meant the second row selection of Devin Toner and James Ryan was straightforward. Quinn Roux sees off his provincial team-mate Ultan Dillane to win a spot on the bench.

On the bench, with no need for extra centre cover, Jordan Larmour and Joey Carbery are tasked with offering contingency options for the back-line, with John Cooney in with a shout of making his first Six Nations appearance.

Jack McGrath, who like Kearney was left of last week’s trip to Portugal, is omitted from the 23, with Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne and Andrew Porter the front row replacements.

Ireland (v England)

15. Robbie Henshaw
14. Keith Earls
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Bundee Aki
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Jonathan Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best (Captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Devin Toner
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. CJ Stander


16. Sean Cronin
17. Dave Kilcoyne
18. Andrew Porter
19. Quinn Roux
20. Sean O’Brien
21. John Cooney
22. Joey Carbery
23. Jordan Larmour


Join us to preview the Six Nations with Simon Zebo, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey on Thursday @7pm in Liberty Hall Theatre Dublin.

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