Saturday, 24 February, 2018

Schmidt Rings The Changes For Italian Clash

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt Six Nations 2018: Uncapped Jordan Larmour on Ireland bench for Italy game
Melinda Barton | 09 February, 2018, 04:32

Josh Van Der Flier is injured and will miss the rest of the season, and has been replaced at flanker by Dan Leavy.

Jordan Larmour is poised to make his Ireland debut after the 20 year old Leinster star was named on the bench.

Best will draw level with Paul O'Connell as Ireland's third-most capped player of all time, on 108 Test appearances.

Jack Conan starts at No 8 for his Six Nations debut, with CJ Stander dropping to the bench after putting in a mammoth shift in last weekend's 15-13 win over France in Paris.

Schmidt has opted to retain his world class half-back pairing of scrum-half Conor Murray and fly-half Johnny Sexton, whose drop goal at the end of 41 phases clinched the win in dramatic style over the French.

Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw continue their partnership in the centre with Jacob Stockdale, Kieth Earls and Rob Kearney making up the back three. Ultan Dillane was not considered for selection because of a family bereavement so Connacht's Quinn Roux will cover secondrow.

Johnny Sexton
Schmidt has opted against resting Johnny Sexton this weekend

Ireland boss Schmidt insisted potential debutant Larmour will not need his hand held if he joins the fray. Schmidt said following the team announcement. We want to make sure those lapses are not repeated.

"He has an expectation that he'll look after himself and look after what he needs to do and bring those exciting elements I talked about to the game".

Joey Carbery makes a welcome return to match-day 23, with Fergus McFadden missing out.

Conan gets his chance at number eight - he has scored four tries in his five caps - as Stander starts on the bench, following his huge physical contribution in last weekend's victory.

The changes come up front with Dan Leavy and Jack Conan coming into the back row, Jack McGrath starting at prop and Devin Toner getting the nod at lock in place of James Ryan.