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Ireland select Sexton and make one change to their starting XV with Hansen in for Earls

Finlay Bealham and Rob Herring come into the match-day squad at the expense of Tom O’Toole and Dave Heffernan.

Hansen has been recalled to the Ireland team.
Hansen has been recalled to the Ireland team.

AS EXPECTED JOHNNY Sexton has been selected by Ireland for the second test of their three match series here in New Zealand despite the fact he was replaced in the first half of last Saturday’s game after he failed a head injury assessment.

Sexton has subsequently passed two further head injury assessments – HIA2 and HIA3 and as per World Rugby rules, is free to play this weekend (kick-off Saturday, 8.05am).

Speaking about Sexton’s selection, vice-captain, Peter O’Mahony said: “There is no secret that Johnny is one of the best 10s – indeed one of the best players – in the world, and as a team you want to be dealing with a full deck. 

“There isn’t anyone you can say you can afford to have out with regard to having three games in the space of nine or ten days. He is hugely important to us, obviously our captain.”

When asked how Sexton has been since Saturday, O’Mahony replied: “I am far from a medical practitioner but he has been in good form.”

The Ireland captain is partnered at half-back by Jamison Gibson-Park. The remainder of the backline sees just one change to last weekend’s 42-19 defeat in Eden Park, with Mack Hansen coming into the side to replace Keith Earls.

Munster wing, Earls, is fit to play although he was rested from training on Tuesday on the back of his intense schedule last week when he played two games in the space of four days, the first against the Maori All Blacks, the second at Eden Park against New Zealand.

Hansen, James Lowe and Hugo Keenan comprise the back three; Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw continue their partnership in midfield.

There are no changes in the pack as Leinster trio, Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong, are selected in the front row, James Ryan and Tadhg Beirne have another chance to further their relationship in the second row, while the back row sees O’Mahony start at blindside, Josh van der Flier continue at openside and Caelan Doris start at No8.

“There are all sorts of different considerations that go into selection,” said the Ireland head coach, Andy Farrell.

“Some people are unlucky not to start because they made a good impact off the bench last weekend. But a lot of the lads who were selected last week get an opportunity to go again.”

Among the replacements there are two changes – Tom O’Toole losing out to Finlay Bealham, who missed last weekend’s game with Covid, while Rob Herring, who had a minor injury, returns to replace Dave Heffernan.

Four of the remaining six replacements, Cian Healy, Jack Conan, Conor Murray and Bundee Aki have gone on Lions tours, with Kieran Treadwell and Joey Carbery also selected as cover in the second row and at outhalf.  

If Eden Park is regarded as the spiritual home of New Zealand rugby then Dunedin can be considered a close second. In 46 test matches here, they have won 40 times, the Forsyth Barr Stadium unique in the sense it is an indoor arena.

“We all know this place suits the All Blacks,” said Farrell. “Every game I have watched in the stadium has been fantastic.

“I have coached there a good few times now and it has always been quick. It is not the biggest of stadiums but the atmosphere is electric in there because of the roof etc.

“I expect more of what we have seen in Super Rugby and when the All Blacks have played there in the past against the Lions or any international side. The ball will be quick.”

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It certainly was last week – the All Blacks scoring six tries, two more than Ireland conceded in the entire Six Nations. Farrell, however, believes Ireland are still in a good enough spot ahead of kick off.

“A bit of doubt creeps in when you don’t know the answers – but our boys do know the answers,” said Farrell.

“They know the access they gave the All Blacks (in last Saturday’s 42-19 defeat) and they understand you cannot do that because if they make those mistakes again they will be behind their own posts.”

Ireland

Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong; Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris

Replacements

Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Kieran Treadwell, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Bundee Aki

About the author:

Garry Doyle  / reports from Dunedin

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