Saturday 23 February 2019

Johnny Sexton to return as Joe Schmidt rings the changes for second Test

Jonathan Sexton during Ireland rugby squad training at St Kevin's College in Melbourne
Jonathan Sexton during Ireland rugby squad training at St Kevin's College in Melbourne

Rúaidhrí O'Connor in Melbourne

JOHNNY SEXTON is set to return to the Ireland No 10 jersey as Joe Schmidt makes wholesale changes to his side for the second Test against Australia.

Peter O'Mahony is expected to continue to lead the team in the second Test against the Wallabies as the head coach recalls a host of players from the team that beat England in Twickenham to win the Grand Slam in March.

Ireland need a victory in Melbourne to take the series to a decider in Sydney after losing the opener 18-9 last Saturday.

Having used last week's first Test defeat to trial some combinations, there is a more established look to this week’s line-up as Sexton comes in for Joey Carbery to join Conor Murray at half-back.

After sitting out last week’s game, Garry Ringrose is likely to come into the team alongside Robbie Henshaw who shifts inside to the No 12 jersey as Bundee Aki misses out for the first time in his maiden campaign.

Schmidt will make a final call on his back three once he has established that Keith Earls has been cleared to play at training overnight. Earls failed a Head Injury Assessment, but it said to be recovering well and should form part of an unchanged back three.

Dan Leavy is expected to come into the back-row alongside O'Mahony and CJ Stander, while Devin Toner will replace Iain Henderson to partner James Ryan in the second-row.

Up front, the all-Leinster trio of Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong that came off the bench last weekend are likely to get the nod this time around.

At this point the composition of Schmidt's bench is unknown, but Tadhg Beirne could be in line for some involvement.

Both coaches are due to name their teams overnight, with Australia's Michael Cheika expected to name an unchanged XV.

Possible Ireland team to face Australia: R Kearney; K Earls, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Stockdale; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, J Ryan; P O'Mahony (capt), D Leavy, CJ Stander. Reps: TBC

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