ireland v italy Farrell makes six changes as Ireland team is named for Six Nations return
Leinster’s Hugo Keenan and Will Connors will make their debuts for Ireland from the start against Italy on Saturday, with Ed Byrne and Jamison Gibson-Park set to win first caps off the bench
Andy Farrell makes six personnel changes from the team that lost to England at Twickenham in February, with Keenan coming on to the left wing as Jacob Stockdale shifts to full-back and Andrew Conway stays in the No 14 shirt.
Garry Ringrose replaces his clubmate Robbie Henshaw at outside centre alongside Bundee Aki. Henshaw must make do with an impact role off the bench.
Half-backs Conor Murray and captain Johnny Sexton remain in situ, while Cian Healy and Rob Herring are joined by Andrew Porter in the front-row.
With Iain Henderson out and Devin Toner not in the squad, Tadhg Beirne gets the nod to partner James Ryan with Caelan Doris picked at blindside alongside Connors and CJ Stander who remains at No 8.
On the bench, Connacht’s Dave Heffernan is preferred to Ronan Kelleher who carried an injury into camp, while Finlay Bealham gets the nod ahead of John Ryan.
Ultan Dillane is preferred to Quinn Roux, while the experienced Peter O’Mahony will provide back-row cover.
Gibson-Park will have his Leinster colleague Ross Byrne for company.
Keenan’s selection is reward for his brilliant few months since rugby restarted in August, starting all but the first match against Munster and making his European debut on the wing against Saracens.
Connors, meanwhile, edges Josh van der Flier out of the team after a superb season for Leinster.
Ireland can win the Guinness Six Nations if they collect 10 points from their two remaining matches against the Italians and France.
Ireland team to face Italy: J Stockdale; A Conway, G Ringrose, B Aki, H Keenan; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Herring, A Porter; T Beirne, James Ryan; C Doris, W Connors, CJ Stander. Reps: D Heffernan, E Byrne, F Bealham, U Dillane, P O’Mahony, J Gibson-Park, R Byrne, R Henshaw