Sean O'Brien axed as Joe Schmidt makes seven changes to Ireland team for France showdown
SEAN O'Brien is now facing a desperate fight to remain in Joe Schmidt's World Cup plans after the coach axed him from his team to face France this weekend.
London Irish-bound O'Brien had been included in the side that beat Italy but he pays the price for a poor performance by suffering a rare demotion under the Kiwi.
There are seven changes in all to the side that defeated Italy as Schmidt's outfit nears full-strength for a crucial fortnight that will decide Ireland's title defence.
Jack Conan's presence on the bench sees him leapfrog O'Brien in the pecking order and, with Dan Leavy and Tadhg Beirne also not in the squad, it promises to be a real scramble in the back-row to make the plane to Japan.
Fit-again pair CJ Stander and Garry Ringrose return to the team for the first time since the defeat to England on the opening weekend, while skipper Rory Best, Cian Healy and James Ryan come back in against the French on Sunday after being rested for the win over Italy in Rome.
Iain Henderson is the seventh change to the side.
Another surprise sees Tadhg Beirne miss out on a bench spot, with demoted Ultan Dillane edging Connacht colleague from a bench berth, after both men started against Italy.
John Cooney is reserve scrum-half despite the return of Kieran Marmion to the squad after ankle surgery. Sean Cronin, as expected, missed out on the 23.
International Rugby Newsletter
IRELAND v France: Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong; James Ryan, Iain Henderson; Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Niall Scannell, David Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Ultan Dillane, Jack Conan, John Cooney, Jack Carty, Jordan Larmour.