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Dublin: 7°C Thursday 6 May 2021

Van der Flier set for Ireland debut with McCloskey ready in midfield

Jared Payne is looking increasingly unlikely to feature against England in Twickenham.

JOE SCHMIDT IS set to hand Josh van der Flier and Stuart McCloskey their international debuts in Saturday’s Six Nations clash with England at Twickenham.

Josh van der Flier Van der Flier has been superb this season. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

22-year-old openside flanker van der Flier has been in exceptional form all season for Leinster, racking up three starts in the Champions Cup and a total of 14 impactful appearances.

With Sean O’Brien ruled out for the rest of the Six Nations due to a hamstring injury, Schmidt is set to task van der Flier with bringing breakdown nous and dynamism to Saturday’s contest in London.

Meanwhile, Schmidt is waiting for a final, definitive call on the fitness of outside centre Jared Payne, but at this point it is thought he is unlikely to feature.

23-year-old McCloskey is set to come into the midfield if his Ulster teammate is ruled out with the hamstring injury he suffered against France.

McCloskey’s inclusion for his Test debut would likely mean Robbie Henshaw moving to the 13 shirt for Ireland.

Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton are set to continue their halfback partnership, while Keith Earls, Andrew Trimble and Rob Kearney look likely to form the back three as Simon Zebo provides bench cover.

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Stuart McCloskey McCloskey looks physically ready for Test rugby. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

CJ Stander and Jamie Heaslip are expected to continue in the back row, as Donnacha Ryan gets set to replace Mike McCarthy alongside Devin Toner in the engine room.

Jack McGrath’s excellent form should see him retain the loosehead slot, while captain Rory Best and the returning Mike Ross look set to complete the front row. Ireland are expected to have another uncapped player on the bench in the shape of Connacht lock Ultan Dillane.

Schmidt is scheduled to name his matchday 23 at 1.20pm tomorrow.

Possible Ireland XV:

15. Rob Kearney
14. Andrew Trimble
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. Keith Earls
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Jack McGrath
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Mike Ross
4. Donnacha Ryan
5. Devin Toner
6. CJ Stander
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Jamie Heaslip

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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