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Johnny Sexton named captain as Ireland make 11 changes for Russia clash

Bundee Aki is also back as Joe Schmidt rings the changes.

IRELAND HAVE MADE 11 personnel changes for Thursday’s World Cup Pool A clash against Russia in Kobe [KO 11.15am Irish time, eir Sport/RTÉ], with Johnny Sexton returning to the team as captain.

Rob Kearney, Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, and Peter O’Mahony are the four players to back-up from Saturday’s shock defeat to Japan, as head coach Joe Schmidt calls on his 31-man squad in a bid to freshen up after a five-day turnaround.

jonathan-sexton-celebrates-winning Sexton is back at out-half for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Key man Johnny Sexton is back at 10 after sitting out the Japan defeat with a quad issue, and has been named Ireland captain for the first time. 

Sexton will be partnered by Leinster team-mate Luke McGrath in the halfbacks at Kobe Misaki Stadium.

Kearney and Earls are retained in the back three, with Andrew Conway coming in to join them on the right wing, meaning Earls shifts over to the left.

The return of Bundee Aki at inside centre will add ballast, as Garry Ringrose makes his third start at in 12 days at outside centre, with Chris Farrell ruled out due to concussion and Robbie Henshaw still not back from a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, O’Mahony makes the move from blindside to openside flanker, with Rhys Ruddock and Jordi Murphy – only recently off the plane from Ireland – coming into the back row.

The as-yet-unused Jean Kleyn partners Tadhg Beirne in the second row, while Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, and John Ryan form an all-Munster starting front row. 

Joey Carbery will cover scrum-half from the bench, with Conor Murray rested, while Andrew Porter provides back-up at loosehead prop. Tadhg Furlong and CJ Stander are involved for the third matchday in a row. 

Ireland (v Russia):

15. Rob Kearney
14. Andrew Conway
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Bundee Aki
11. Keith Earls
10. Johnny Sexton (captain)
9. Luke McGrath

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Niall Scannell
3. John Ryan
4. Tadhg Beirne
5. Jean Kleyn
6. Rhys Ruddock
7. Peter O’Mahony
8. Jordi Murphy

Replacements:

16. Sean Cronin
17. Andrew Porter
18. Tadhg Furlong
19. Iain Henderson
20. CJ Stander
21. Joey Carbery
22. Jack Carty
23. Jordan Larmour

Referee: Jerome Garces [France]. 

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Murray Kinsella

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