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Johnny Sexton starts but Tadhg Furlong misses out on Wales clash


Johnny Sexton will captain Ireland against Wales on the opening day of the Six Nations after recovering from a facial injury.

The Leinster out-half has not played since New Year’s Day, but Sexton has recovered in time and has been trusted to start by Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.

Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey will continue in the number 12 jersey after he started at inside centre in all three of Ireland’s Autumn Nations Series matches, with Robbie Henshaw still recovering from injury.

James Lowe has been named to start on the wing despite seemingly slipping down the pecking order at Leinster, with Farrell putting his faith in the experienced winger.

Plenty of experience on the bench.

In the pack, Finlay Bealham will start at tighthead prop while Tom O’Toole is named on the bench, which suggests that Tadhg Furlong hasn’t fully recovered from an injury he suffered back in December.

Conor Murray and Bundee Aki have both been named on the bench despite their recent lack of game time for Munster and Connacht respectively, while Leinster’s Ross Byrne is also selected among the replacements.

Ireland will come up against a highly experienced Wales side, for which Warren Gatland is back at the helm after Wayne Pivac was sacked following a disappointing 2022.

Gatland named his team early on Tuesday, although Wales have been forced into making a change, as Liam Williams will start at full back instead of Leigh Halfpenny, who has been ruled out due to a back spasm.

Ireland’s match-day squad.

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster)
14. Mack Hansen (Connacht)
13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster)
12. Stuart McCloskey (Ulster)
11. James Lowe (Leinster)
10. Johnny Sexton (Leinster)
9. Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster)
8. Caelan Doris (Leinster)
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster)
6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster)
5. James Ryan (Leinster)
4. Tadhg Beirne (Munster)
3. Finlay Bealham (Connacht)
2. Dan Sheehan (Leinster)
1. Andrew Porter (Leinster)


16. Rob Herring (Ulster)
17. Cian Healy (Leinster)
18. Tom O’Toole (Ulster)
19. Iain Henderson (Ulster)
20. Jack Conan (Leinster)
21. Conor Murray (Munster)
22. Ross Byrne (Leinster)
23. Bundee Aki (Connacht)

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