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Sexton starts as Ireland aim to keep Six Nations chase alive against France

The out-half is one of three changes as captain Rory Best also returns after illness.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

JONATHAN SEXTON WILL wear Ireland’s number 10 jersey for the first time since the November defeat to New Zealand when France are the visitors for Saturday’s crucial Six Nations clash.

While Sexton has struggled with niggling hamstring and calf injuries which limited him to just 130 minutes of gametime with Leinster, Paddy Jackson had taken the reins for wins over Australia and Italy either side of the defeat to Scotland.

Sexton has something of a history of making injury comebacks against France. Two years ago, Les Bleus were also the oppositions when the out-half returned after an enforced 12-week absence due to concussion concerns.

Jackson is joined on the replacements bench by fit-again provincial team-mate Andrew Trimble as Keith Earls, Simon Zebo and Rob Kearney make up the back three. Peter O’Mahony provides the back row cover after swapping places with Josh van der Flier on the injury absentee list.

Rory Best and Garry Ringrose Rory Best and Garry Ringrose make their way to training today. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Jack McGrath and Rory Best return to the front row after rotation and illness kept them out of the starting XV in Rome. Ian Keatley, James Tracey and Craig Gilroy slip out of the matchday 23.

Ireland

15. Rob Kearney
14. Keith Earls
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Simon Zebo
10. Jonathan Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Jack McGrath
2. Rory Best (Capt.)
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Donnacha Ryan
5. Devin Toner
6.  CJ Stander
7. Sean O’Brien
8. Jamie Heaslip 

Replacements:

16. Niall Scannell
17. Cian Healy
18. John Ryan
19. Iain Henderson
20. Peter O’Mahony
21. Kieran Marmion
22. Paddy Jackson
23. Andrew Trimble

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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