Ireland team to face Scotland in Autumn Nations Cup

Johnny Sexton in action for Ireland v Wales in 2020 Autumn Nations Cup Johnny Sexton will lead Ireland against Scotland on Saturday (Brian Lawless/PA)

Johnny Sexton will return from a hamstring problem to captain Ireland for Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup third-place play-off with Scotland.

Head coach Andy Farrell, who admitted last weekend’s underwhelming 23-10 win over Georgia was not acceptable, has made six changes to his starting XV as he bids to end an inconsistent first year in charge on a high.

Veteran skipper Sexton – forced off in the win over Wales on the opening weekend of the tournament – has replaced the injured Billy Burns at fly-half to recommence his long-standing half-back partnership with Conor Murray.

Uncapped Ulster prop Eric O’Sullivan has been named among the replacements and could make his international debut.

Experienced prop Cian Healy has also been restored to the line-up, while number eight Caelan Doris and flanker Peter O’Mahony will return to join CJ Stander in the back row.

Centre Robbie Henshaw, who has missed the last two games with a groin problem, and Bundee Aki will resume their midfield partnership for the clash in Dublin.

A groin issue for winger James Lowe has resulted in Farrell selecting an unchanged back three of Jacob Stockdale, Keith Earls and Hugo Keenan.

Tighthead prop Andrew Porter and locks Iain Henderson and James Ryan have also retained their starting spots.

The recall for Doris will see Stander move from the centre of the back row to blindside flanker, with O’Mahony selected at openside.

Farrell, whose tenure to date was on Monday assessed as an “average return” by the Irish Rugby Football Union, has dropped Chris Farrell to a bench completed by 25-year-old rookie O’Sullivan, Ronan Kelleher, John Ryan, Quinn Roux, Josh Van Der Flier, Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne.

Ireland team to play Scotland

Forwards: 1 Cian Healy (Leinster), 2 Rob Herring (Ulster), 3 Andrew Porter (Leinster), 4 Iain Henderson (Ulster), 5 James Ryan (Leinster) , 6 CJ Stander (Munster), 7 Peter O'Mahony (Munster), 8 Caelan Doris (Leinster)

Backs: 9 Conor Murray (Munster), 10 Jonathan Sexton (CAPTAIN, Leinster), 11 Keith Earls (Munster), 12 Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), 13 Bundee Aki (Connacht), 14 Hugo Keenan (Leinster), 15 Jacob Stockdale (Ulster)

Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher (Leinster), 17 Eric O’Sullivan (Ulster)*, 18 John Ryan (Munster), 19 Quinn Roux (Connacht), 20 Josh van der Flier (Leinster), 21 Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster), 22 Ross Byrne (Leinster), 23 Chris Farrell (Munster)

* Denotes uncapped player

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