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Van der Flier and Beirne set to start Ireland's Six Nations opener in Cardiff

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Ireland's Josh van der Flier in action against Taulupe Faletau of Wales during last year's Six Nations championship

Ireland's Josh van der Flier in action against Taulupe Faletau of Wales during last year's Six Nations championship

Ireland's Josh van der Flier in action against Taulupe Faletau of Wales during last year's Six Nations championship

Josh van der Flier looks set to come into the Ireland back-row for Sunday’s Six Nations opener.

After losing Caelan Doris to a head injury, Andy Farrell is expected to re-jig his back-row with Peter O’Mahony moving to blindside flanker with CJ Stander starting at No 8 to accommodate the Leinster flanker who will see off competition from his club-mates Rhys Ruddock and Will Connors who are vying for a bench spot.

Fit again Tadhg Furlong, Dave Kilcoyne and Iain Henderson are set to come on to the Ireland bench, with Tadhg Beirne in line to start in the second-row alongside James Ryan.

The in-form Munster lock was man of the match against Leinster last week and looks set to be rewarded with a recall after missing the last game against Scotland in December.

Cian Healy, Rob Herring and Andrew Porter are expected to continue in the front-row, although Dave Kilcoyne has been impressing in training and could push Healy close.

Behind the scrum, Johnny Sexton is fit to lead the side along with Conor Murray, while fit-again Garry Ringrose should come into the midfield to partner his Leinster colleague Robbie Henshaw.

The back-three picture remains slightly clouded with James Lowe pushing for a spot, but it seems likely Farrell will plump for Hugo Keenan at full-back and Jordan Larmour and Keith Earls on the wings.

Furlong and Henderson will lead a strong bench effort, with Farrell facing another big decision in whether to pick Ross Byrne or Billy Burns as his back-up No 10.

The coach will name his team this morning, while Wales are scheduled to name their side at noon with George North likely to be named at outside centre with Gloucester speedster Louis Rees-Zammit coming in for Josh Adamswho is suspended after breaching the squad’s Covid-19 guidelines.

Possible Ireland team to face Wales: H Keenan; J Larmour, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, K Earls; J Sexton (capt), C Murray; C Healy, R Herring, A Porter; T Beirne, J Ryan; P O’Mahony, J van der Flier, CJ Stander. Reps: R Kelleher, D Kilcoyne, T Furlong, I Henderson, W Connors, J Gibson-Park, B Burns/R Byrne, J Lowe.

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