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Andy Farrell set to shake up Ireland team with Craig Casey in line for start against Italy

Munster scrum-half Craig Casey is also set for his first Six Nations start alongside Byrne at the half-back.

Ross Byrne and Craig Casey will make their first Six Nations starts together against Italy on Saturday. Image: Sportsfile.© SPORTSFILE


ROSS BYRNE is set to don the Ireland No 10 jersey for the first time since November 2020 as he makes the first Six Nations start of his career against Italy on Saturday.

The IRFU have confirmed that Johnny Sexton will sit out the game in Rome, with James Ryan named as captain in his absence, and the veteran out-half's absence opens the door for his Leinster teammate.

Munster scrum-half Craig Casey is also set for his first Six Nations start alongside Byrne at the half-back.

The Leinster ten has made a remarkable international comeback since being called up at the 11th hour to face Australia last autumn.

He kicked the winning penalty and that kick propelled him back into the Six Nations squad ahead of Joey Carbery.

Byrne came off the bench against Wales and France in impressive style and has earned a chance to lead the backline as Ireland look to make it three from three in their bid to win a first title since 2018.

And Byrne looks set to be joined by Casey, who also starred off the bench against France.

The 23-year-old has edged ahead of Conor Murray at club level and now gets a big chance to impress on just his second start for Ireland and his first since he played against the United States in July 2021.

Iain Henderson is expected to start in the second-row alongside Ryan in place of the injured Tadhg Beirne, with Ryan Baird coming on to the bench where Jack Crowley is likely to cover Byrne.

There is set to be another change in the back-row, with Jack Conan recalled at No 8, with Caelan Doris switching to blindside and Peter O'Mahony among the replacements.

Rónan Kelleher could be promoted to the starting hooker's slot with Dan Sheehan coming on to the bench after missing the France game through injury, while Dave Kilcoyne is set to see off fit-again Cian Healy.

Perhaps the biggest call for Farrell is at inside centre where Bundee Aki is likely to get the nod ahead of Stuart McCloskey after impressing off the bench in rounds one and two.

Possible Ireland team to face Italy: H Keenan; M Hansen, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Lowe; R Byrne, C Casey; A Porter, R Kelleher, F Bealham; I Henderson, J Ryan (capt); C Doris, J van der Flier, J Conan. Reps: D Sheehan, D Kilcoyne, T O’Toole, R Baird, P O’Mahony, C Murray, J Crowley, S McCloskey.

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