Saturday 21 September 2019

Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray return to face Wales as Conan and Stander deployed in same back row

Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray
Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray
'The optics of this will be most apparent at half-back, where Ireland's combination of Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton are expected to always get everything right.' Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Des Berry

Ireland will use specialist number eights Jack Conan and CJ Stander in the same back row against Wales on Saturday (KO2.0).

It serves to reinforce the interpretation that Joe Schmidt is going for power and dynamism in Japan, the two carriers getting their chance to show they can work together.

Jonathan Sexton will make his seasonal bow beside his usual half-back partner Conor Murray.

There will also be a first hit out for centre Robbie Henshaw, renewing his old Connacht partnership with Bundee Aki.

Keith Earls will line out on the left wing, rather than the right, as Jordan Larmour is set to start on the opposite flank.

In the pack, Jean Kleyn and James Ryan will be the motor in behind the first-choice trio of Cian Healy, captain Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong.

It is in the back row, however, where the real intrigue takes place, Josh van de Flier knowing he needs a big game, perhaps to keep Peter O’Mahony out of the number seven shirt in Japan.   

Ireland: R Kearney; J Larmour, B Aki, R Henshaw, K Earls; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best (capt), T Furlong, J Ryan, J Kleyn, CJ Stander, J van der Flier, J Conan.

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