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Keenan and Connors handed debuts as Stockdale moves to 15 for Ireland

Ed Byrne and Jamison Gibson-Park are set for their first caps off the bench against Italy.

Hugo Keenan and Will Connors start for Ireland.
Hugo Keenan and Will Connors start for Ireland.
Image: INPHO

ANDY FARRELL HAS handed starting debuts to Hugo Keenan and Will Connors for Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Italy at the Aviva Stadium [KO 3.30pm].

Leinster man Keenan starts on the left wing, while his provincial team-mate Connors is named at openside flanker.

Loosehead prop Ed Byrne and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park are set for their Test debuts off the bench. 

With Keenan coming into the number 11 shirt, Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale will start at fullback for the first time at senior level for Ireland as Andrew Conway completes the back three.

Rob Herring retains his spot at hooker, with Cian Healy and Andrew Porter on either side of him in the front row. Tadhg Beirne partners James Ryan in the second row, while CJ Stander and Caelan Doris make up the back row with Connors.

Captain Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray make up the highly-experienced halfback pairing as Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose team up in midfield.

The bench includes the returning Connacht tighthead prop Finlay Bealham, while Robbie Henshaw will cover the midfield and outside backs.

Farrell’s Ireland are still chasing the Six Nations title with two games remaining. Bonus-point wins over Italy and France would guarantee them championship success. 

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Ireland (v Italy):

15. Jacob Stockdale
14. Andrew Conway
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Bundee Aki
11. Hugo Keenan
10. Johnny Sexton (captain)
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Rob Herring
3. Andrew Porter
4. Tadhg Beirne
5. James Ryan
6. Caelan Doris
7. Will Connors
8. CJ Stander

Replacements:

16. Dave Heffernan
17. Ed Byrne
18. Finlay Bealham
19. Ultan Dillane
20. Peter O’Mahony
21. Jamison Gibson-Park
22. Ross Byrne
23. Robbie Henshaw

Referee: Matthew Carley (RFU).

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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