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Connors and Keenan set for debuts as Farrell names Ireland team

Connors and Keenan set for debuts as Farrell names Ireland team

Connors and Keenan set for debuts as Farrell names Ireland team

Will Connors and Hugo Keenan will make their Test debuts when Ireland host Italy on Saturday after Andy Farrell named the Leinster pair in his starting XV.

The Guinness Six Nations match in Dublin was postponed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic and is the last Round 4 fixture to be played.

Ireland are targeting a bonus-point win in a bid to keep their hopes of a second Guinness Six Nations title in three years on track ahead of Super Saturday on October 31.

They will also be hoping for a strong finish to ensure they are full of confidence going into the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup, which Farrell’s men begin against Wales in Dublin on November 13.

This weekend, Connors lines up at openside flanker in a back row that also contains Caelan Doris and CJ Stander, while Keenan starts on the left wing.

He slots into the space vacated by Jacob Stockdale, who moves to full-back to fill in for the injured Jordan Larmour.

Fly-half Johnny Sexton will captain the side after declaring himself fit earlier this week following a muscle injury, while fellow veteran Cian Healy reaches 99 caps at loosehead prop.

Healy will scrum down next to Rob Herring and Andrew Porter, while James Ryan and Tadhg Beirne slot into the second row.

Conor Murray joins Sexton at half-back, while Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose resume their fruitful midfield partnership and Andrew Conway fills in on the right wing.

Prop Ed Byrne and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, both also at Leinster, are likely to make their Ireland debuts from the replacements bench.

Ireland team to face Italy:

15. Jacob Stockdale (Ulster) 28 caps
14. Andrew Conway (Munster) 21 caps
13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster) 29 caps
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht) 26 caps
11. Hugo Keenan (Leinster) uncapped
10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster) 91 capsย Captain
9. Conor Murray (Munster) 81 caps
1. Cian Healy (Leinster) 98 caps
2. Rob Herring (Ulster) 11 caps
3. Andrew Porter (Leinster) 26 caps
4. Tadhg Beirne (Munster) 13 caps
5. James Ryan (Leinster) 26 caps
6. Caelan Doris (Leinster) 2 caps
7. Will Connors (Leinster) uncapped
8. CJ Stander (Munster) 41 caps

Replacements

16. Dave Heffernan (Connacht) 1 cap
17. Ed Byrne (Leinster) uncapped
18. Finlay Bealham (Connacht) 9 caps
19. Ultan Dillane (Connacht) 15 caps
20. Peter Oโ€™Mahony (Munster) 67 caps
21. Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster) uncapped
22. Ross Byrne (Leinster) 6 caps
23. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster) 43 caps

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