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high for lowe James Lowe earns surprise recall as Ireland name team for Six Nations opener against Wales

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James Lowe

James Lowe

Josh van der Flier

Josh van der Flier

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James Lowe

Fit-again James Lowe has been handed a surprise recall to the Ireland team to face Wales on Saturday.

The Leinster winger hasn't played since Ireland's Autumn Nations Cup defeat in Twickenham back in November after he picked up a groin injury.

Despite his considerable lack of game-time, Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has shown huge faith in Lowe, who starts on the left wing, having seen off competition from Jordan Larmour and Andrew Conway.

Larmour has to make do with a place on the bench and he will be hoping to have a big impact in Cardiff this weekend.

Farrell has rewarded Tadhg Beirne for his excellent form with a start in the second-row alongside James Ryan.

Although Iain Henderson is back from a knee injury, Farrell has resisted the temptation to throw the Ulster skipper straight back into the starting XV and instead, has stuck with Beirne, who has been excellent for Munster in recent months.

Josh van der Flier has won the battle of the back-rows after seeing off stiff competition from Will Connors and Rhys Ruddock.

With Caelan Doris ruled out due to concussion related issues, CJ Stander reverts to No 8, with Peter O'Mahony back at blindside to make room for van der Flier at openside. Connors will provide cover on the bench.

As expected, Hugo Keenan gets the nod at full-back and makes up the back-three alongside Keith Earls and Lowe.

The in-form Robbie Henshaw is preferred to Bundee Aki in the centre with the returning Garry Ringrose. Conor Murray and captain Johnny Sexton continue their long-standing half-back partnership.

The front-row also has a familiar look to it with Rob Herring packing down in between Cian Healy and Andrew Porter. Crucially, Tadhg Furlong is named among the replacements following his lengthy lay-off.

Beirne and Ryan are in the second-row and are bolstered by a back-row of O'Mahony, van der Flier and Stander.

Farrell will be able to call upon a strong bench with Dave Kilcoyne, Furlong, Henderson and Larmour all making their respective returns to the international fold.

Hooker Rónan Kelleher, Connors, Jamison Gibson-Park and Billy Burns complete the options off the bench.

Ireland team to face Wales on Sunday: H Keenan; K Earls, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe; 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, J Larmour.

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