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Henshaw and Aki back together as Schmidt trusts in Ryan for French clash

Devin Toner joins Luke McGrath and Fergus McFadden among Ireland’s replacements for the trip to Paris.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

IRELAND HEAD COACH Joe Schmidt has again placed a huge amount of faith in 21-year-old James Ryan as the Leinster man is named to start Saturday’s Six Nations opener against France in Paris (kick-off 16.45, TV3).

The Dubliner will earn his fifth cap ahead of his provincial team-mate, the veteran Devin Toner in a forward pack containing just two players in their 30s.

The elder statesman in the matchday 23, Rory Best captains the side between props Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong.

Ryan is partnered by Iain Henderson while Josh van der Flier gets the nod over Dan Leavy to fill the number seven jersey left up for grabs by Sean O’Brien’s injury. Munster duo CJ Stander and Peter O’Mahony complete the back row.

In the back-line, Schmidt has been able to name the seven he was expected to favour for the opening November Test against South Africa. Keith Earls, injured ahead of that fixture, returns to the wing with the one-time Connacht midfield partnership of Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki unleashed on the international stage for a second time.

Fergus McFadden’s brilliant form over the winter has earned the Leinster wing a place among the replacements, but 21-year-old Ulster star Jacob Stockdale is again preferred to start in the back three.

Bundee Aki after the game Bundee Aki wins his third cap. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Injured during an impressive outing against Fiji in November, Joey Carbery will play back-up to Jonathan Sexton, while Luke McGrath has edged out Kieran Marmion for the right to deputise Conor Murray.

Sean Cronin, omitted completely from the November playing squad, has forced his way back into the 23 after a string of exceptional powerful performances at hooker for Leinster.

Ireland (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

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