Sexton back as Ireland make six changes


Ireland captain Johnny Sexton will start against England in Saturday’s Six Nations clash at Twickenham. Sexton is one of six changes Head Coach Andy Farrell has made to the side.
Hugo Keenan, Andrew Conway, Bundee Aki, Cian Healy and James Ryan will all start against Eddie Jones’ side in the penultimate Six Nations game.
Speaking about the changes Farrell said: “It’s always difficult, we’ve got a good squad. We’ve said all along it will be a squad effort that gets us through this competition and puts us in a good position. We feel the balance of the team is a good one.
With Andrew Porter out injured Healy comes in to win his 115th cap. He will line out beside Tadhg Furlong and Dan Sheehan in the front row. Ryan returns from injury. Peter O’Mahony gets the nod ahead of Jack Conan.
Farrell spoke highly of both players: “Both great players but we think the balance is right for this game. Pete’s in good form and is a good emotional leader for us. We know what he brings at the set-piece and breakdown.”
James Lowe keeps his place on the left wing. Farrell was full of praise for the Leinster player: “We’ve all seen it, haven’t we? Certainly the progression that we saw in autumn.
“The learnings that he had taken on board to be able to perform on the big stage at international level. It’s something we want to see at the weekend.
“He’s a big threat ball-in-hand, he also links very well, as does Mack. We all know that he’s got a left boot on him as well. James being on the left wing and left-footed is a big advantage for us.”
About the trip to the London venue Farrell said: “We’ve got to make sure they hit a bump in the road. You say they are building through the competition, but we’ve got to put a stop to that.
“We’ve got to go over there and prove to ourselves that there’s a performance in there that’s a step above what we’ve shown already.”
The Ireland team to face England: Hugo Keenan; Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (capt), Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong; Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: Rob Herring, Dave Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Robbie Henshaw.
Meanwhile England have made three changes from the side that defeated Wales last time out. Sam Simmonds, Jamie George and Joe Marchant will all start.