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Ireland team to face England: Henshaw set for full-back as Van der Flier gets nod

 

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Josh van der Flier is set to start against England

Josh van der Flier is set to start against England

SPORTSFILE

Ireland's Josh van der Flier. Photo: Sportsfile

Ireland's Josh van der Flier. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

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Josh van der Flier is set to start against England

Robbie Henshaw looks set to be handed the Ireland No 15 jersey for the first time since his debut against the United States in 2013 in a shock call from head coach Joe Schmidt.

Rob Kearney trained on Tuesday having missed the pre-Six Nations training camp in Portugal but has not done enough to earn a place in the side after playing just three games since the win over New Zealand in November.

However, that is more game-time than the Athlone native who missed the autumn internationals with a hamstring injury and played for an hour for Leinster at centre against Wasps on his return two weeks ago.

While Kearney was left with Leinster to face Scarlets last Friday, Henshaw travelled to the Algarve and ran at full-back in training.

His inclusion is expected to be one of two changes to the team that beat New Zealand in November, with Conor Murray returning to the No 9 shirt to partner Johnny Sexton who hasn't played since December 29.

Josh van der Flier looks likely to see off Seán O'Brien to take the openside berth, with the Tullow Tank in a battle with Jordi Murphy for a place on the bench.

Up front, Cian Healy, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong are expected to be named in the front-row, with Devin Toner joining James Ryan in the second-row and Van der Flier linking up with Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander in the back-row.

With Henshaw at full-back, Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose resume their midfield partnership, while Jacob Stockdale and Keith Earls line out on the wings.

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Schmidt has some big decisions to make when it comes to his bench, with John Cooney likely to get his championship debut as he covers Murray in the absence of Kieran Marmion and Luke McGrath.

Dave Kilcoyne is pushing Jack McGrath hard for the spot covering Healy, while Niall Scannell and Seán Cronin are battling for the reserve hooker slot and Ultan Dillane and Quinn Roux vying for the No 19 shirt.

It remains to be seen if Kearney is handed the No 23 shirt, with Will Addison, Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour also in the mix.

Both teams will be named today with Manu Tuilagi set to start for England.

IRELAND (possible team v England) - R Henshaw; K Earls, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best (capt), T Furlong; D Toner, J Ryan; P O'Mahony, J van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Irish Independent