James Crombie/INPHO Hugo Keenan came close to scoring away to France last time out.
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Keenan excited to link with Lowe and Stockdale in Ireland's new-look back three
The Leinster man will win his third cap against Wales in Dublin this evening.

THE CONTRAST IN experience between the Ireland and Wales starting XVs for this evening’s clash in Dublin [KO 7pm, RTÉ/Channel 4] is neatly highlighted in the back threes.

While Andy Farrell’s selection of James Lowe, Jacob Stockdale, and Hugo Keenan have 32 caps between them, the Welsh trio of Josh Adams, Leigh Halfpenny, and Liam Williams possess a grand total of 181.

Overall, Farrell’s starting team has 495 caps to Wales’ 799, but then Test appearances don’t mean everything.

Ireland’s wide men will be looking to show that their relative inexperience at the highest level of the game doesn’t mean they can’t make an impact, with Lowe set for his debut at the age of 28 as he comes in on the left wing.

That means a shift out to the right wing for Hugo Keenan, who will make his third start for Ireland this evening and is entirely happy to move across.

“It’s the same general principles, same roles, and similar moves, so it’s an easy transition,” says 24-year-old Keenan. “I’m probably a small bit more comfortable on the right – it’s easier kicking.”

The Leinster man is pleased to see his provincial team-mate, Lowe, taking the step up.

“He brings so much to the team and so much to the squad in general,” says Keenan. “He’s been in with us for the last month or so, contributing and getting used to the systems and the environment, and he’s raring to go.

“We all know he’s got that bit of an X-factor, so he’s keen and I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes.”

hugo-keenan-jacob-stockdale-and-james-lowe Dan Sheridan / INPHO Ireland's new-look back three for this evening. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Fullback Stockdale has been the focus of plenty of attention in the wake of errors against France two weekends ago as he made just his second Test start in the number 15 shirt.

The 24-year-old Ulsterman also had some high-quality moments with ball in hand and with his kicking game, so he will be looking to provide a more complete performance against the Welsh.

“He’s been training so well,” says Keenan of Stockdale. “He’s a world-class player. I remember him the U20s final against England [in 2016], he scored an unbelievable try and himself and James [Ryan] and [Andrew] Porter, I think six months later they were in an Irish squad. He’s some player in fairness to him.”

Keenan says he and Lowe can make life easier for Stockdale.

“You’re always working together in those systems, always working in your threes, trying to get two in the backfield covering so I think we could have helped him more [against France].

“I’m comfortable playing 15 as well obviously so I think that will help Jacob and we can sort of work together and even with Earlsy [Keith Earls, who is back on the bench] and Andrew Conway, working out different scenarios in training, looking at clips together, looking at Wales. It always helps.”

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