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Andy Farrell calls in his front-liners for Ireland’s first Test against All Blacks as he makes 14 changes

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Ireland captain Johnny Sexton during Ireland rugby squad training at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton during Ireland rugby squad training at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton during Ireland rugby squad training at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

As expected, Andy Farrell has recalled his front-liners for Saturday's first Test against the All Blacks at Eden Park.

Farrell has made 14 changes from the side who were beaten in the opening night tour defeat to the Maori, with Keith Earls the only survivor.

In a major surprise, Cian Healy has been deemed fit enough to be named on the bench. The veteran loosehead needed a medical cart to remove him from the field in Hamilton on Wednesday after he appeared to suffer a nasty injury.

Although Healy's issue will need further examination before a final decision is made, he has been included among the replacements for now.

“He had a bit more of a scare than anything else,” Farrell said.

“He recovered pretty quickly in the changing room after the game; he is still a bit sore this morning and is going through a few protocols with regard to rehab etc, but we are going to give him through to tomorrow. He has made such improvement and we are optimistic about that.”

Johnny Sexton returns to captain the side alongside Jamison Gibson-Park. Earls' retention means he links up with Hugo Keenan and James Lowe in the back-three, with Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose renewing their familiar centre partnership.

Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong make up an all-Leinster front-row, as Tadhg Beirne gets set for his first appearance since the Six Nations next to James Ryan in the second-row.

Peter O'Mahony gets the nod ahead of Jack Conan, who has to make do with a place on the bench. The Munster skipper makes up the back-row with Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris, who switches to No 8.

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Dave Heffernan will provide hooker back-up, with Finlay Bealham and Healy switching their usual jersey numbers, as the Connacht man wearing 17 and Healy in the 18 shirt.

Kieran Treadwell sees off competition from Ryan Baird and Joe McCarthy to earn a spot on the bench, with Conan offering back-row cover.

Conor Murray, Joey Carbery and Bundee Aki complete the bench.

Meanwhile, James Hume is sweating over the results of a scan on his groin injury, which forced him off in the Maori defeat. The Ulster centre's tour is expected to be over.

Speaking about the challenge that lies ahead this weekend, Farrell said: “They have one or two injuries but so have we and at the same time they could pick four teams in New Zealand and they would all be unbelievably hard to play against, so we are under no illusions about what we are up against at the weekend.

“Like, I said to you before, any type of performance we have had before, that got us over the line, that won’t do this weekend.

“We have talked about it,” Farrell added.

“History does not lie, does it? That is why I said what I said before with regards to what is coming, what is going to be good enough and what is not going to be good enough.

“We expect them to be at their best, like we always do. We also have a saying, that we attack the game ourselves. We are going through the stages of preparation. We had a training session today; we have a captain’s run tomorrow. We need to make sure we keep on improving over the next couple of days to make sure we can be the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be.”

Ireland team to play All Blacks – H Keenan; K Earls G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe; J Sexton (capt), J Gibson-Park; A Porter, D Sheehan, T Furlong; T Beirne, J Ryan; P O'Mahony, J van der Flier, C Doris. Reps: D Heffernan, F Bealham, C Healy, K Treadwell, J Conan, C Murray, J Carbery, B Aki.


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