JOE SCHMIDT IS set to hand Leinster lock James Ryan his first Six Nations cap in the starting team for Saturday’s championship opener against France in Paris [KO 4.45pm Irish time].
21-year-old Ryan looks to have beaten off the competition of Devin Toner to get the nod to start alongside Iain Henderson in the second row.
Henderson and Ryan did start Ireland’s final November Test against Argentina together and it appears that Schmidt has opted to back the youthful Leinster man’s athleticism ahead of the experience of Toner again.
Meanwhile, Josh van der Flier is set to wear Ireland’s number seven shirt.
With Sean O’Brien missing due to injury, Schmidt has had a tough call to make at openside but it appears that van der Flier will be named in Ireland’s starting back row, with Dan Leavy providing cover from the bench.
Leinster man van der Flier, who missed the November Tests through injury, looks likely to form the Irish back row with Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander.
Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong and Cian Healy are likely to continue their front-row combination from the November Tests.
Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton will make up the halfback partnership, while Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw will be in midfield.
Rob Kearney appears set to start at fullback, while Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale look like favourites for the wing positions.
Joey Carbery and Sean Cronin – who was absent in November due non-selection – are set to return to Ireland’s matchday 23, and it also looks like Leinster’s Luke McGrath has pushed past Kieran Marmion for the replacement scrum-half slot.
Andrew Conway had been set to be the 23rd man, although it is believed he picked up an injury this week and may now be ruled out, with Fergus McFadden possibly being included instead, although the uncapped Jordan Larmour is also an option.
Schmidt is due to officially name his matchday 23 at 1pm tomorrow afternoon.
Possible Ireland team v France:
15. Rob Kearney
14. Keith Earls
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Bundee Aki
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray
1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. James Ryan
5. Iain Henderson
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. CJ Stander
16. Sean Cronin
17. Jack McGrath
18. John Ryan
19. Devin Toner
20. Dan Leavy
21. Luke McGrath
22. Joey Carbery
23. Fergus McFadden
- This article was updated at 10.35pm to correct an error stating that Joey Carbery was injured for the November Tests.
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