Monday 12 November 2018

James Ryan and Josh van der Flier poised for Paris start

Schmidt ready to blood young stars in opener

Leinster's Josh van der Flier. Photo: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Josh Van Der Flier looks set to win the race to replace Seán O'Brien in the Ireland No 7 shirt for Saturday's Six Nations opener against France.

Joe Schmidt will recall Robbie Henshaw and Keith Earls to the team that beat Argentina in November, with James Ryan expected to keep his spot in the second-row ahead of Devin Toner, who is set to be named on the bench.

Henshaw, who missed the win over the Pumas due to a hamstring problem, will return to partner Bundee Aki as Chris Farrell misses out.

Earls, who also missed the game with hamstring troubles, will replace the injured Adam Byrne.

Van der Flier beats competition from Jordi Murphy and Dan Leavy, with Leavy set for a role as an impact sub alongside Seán Cronin, who is in line for a recall having missed November altogether.

Cian Healy is primed to get the nod ahead of Jack McGrath at loosehead.

Meanwhile, John Muldoon is poised to take his first steps into coaching alongside his former Connacht boss Pat Lam next season.

The Galway native will retire at the end of the season and is reported to have agreed to join up with Lam at Bristol.

Muldoon and Lam shared a close bond as captain and coach during the former All Blacks' time with the western province, combining to win the Guinness PRO12 in 2015/16.

Lam already has one former Connacht coach on the books in Conor McPhillips, while ex-Ireland out-half Ian Madigan also lines out for the runaway leaders of the English Championship.

It is understood that Connacht are shopping overseas for a replacement for iconic captain Muldoon and are close to landing a new No 8.

Muldoon recently announced his intention to retire from playing at the end of this campaign.

Possible Ireland team to face France:

R Kearney; K Earls, R Henshaw, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best (capt), T Furlong; I Henderson, James Ryan; P O'Mahony, J van der Flier, CJ Stander.

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