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TEAM NEWS Sexton, Murray and Ryan ruled out of Six Nations clash with France

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Jonathan Sexton of Ireland is attended to by team physio Keith Fox, left, and team doctor Dr Ciaran Cosgrave during last week's Six Nations game in Wales. Photo: Gareth Everett/Sportsfile

Jonathan Sexton of Ireland is attended to by team physio Keith Fox, left, and team doctor Dr Ciaran Cosgrave during last week's Six Nations game in Wales. Photo: Gareth Everett/Sportsfile

James Ryan of Ireland before leaving the pitch during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Wales and Ireland. Photo: Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile

James Ryan of Ireland before leaving the pitch during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Wales and Ireland. Photo: Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile

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Jonathan Sexton of Ireland is attended to by team physio Keith Fox, left, and team doctor Dr Ciaran Cosgrave during last week's Six Nations game in Wales. Photo: Gareth Everett/Sportsfile

Johnny Sexton is unable to lead Ireland against France on Sunday as a result of the head injury he suffered against Wales last weekend and the blow has been compounded by the loss of Conor Murray who strained a hamstring in training.

With James Ryan also ruled out with a head injury, Ireland will be led by Ulster skipper Iain Henderson for the first time.

Sexton, whose health has been the subject of intense focus this week, had been expected to be declared fit before yesterday's training session.

He attended a virtual press conference on Wednesday where he expressed his hope that he'd be available but stressed he would not take any risks.

This morning, Andy Farrell confirmed that Billy Burns will be handed a chance to atone for his late blooper in Cardiff as he wears the Ireland No 10 shirt for the second time. He'll be partnered by Jamison Gibson-Park, with Munster's Craig Casey set for his debut off the bench.

The Ulster out-half's inclusion is one of four enforced changes to the team, with Rhys Ruddock replacing the suspended Peter O'Mahony and Henderson coming in for Ryan.

Earlier in the week, assistant coach Simon Easterby said both he and Sexton were progressing well through the Return to Play protocols, but neither has been declared fit.

"Ireland captain Johnny Sexton and vice-captain James Ryan have not hit all their markers this week in the return to play protocols so are not considered for selection," the IRFU said in its team announcement.

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James Ryan of Ireland before leaving the pitch during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Wales and Ireland. Photo: Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile

James Ryan of Ireland before leaving the pitch during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Wales and Ireland. Photo: Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile

James Ryan of Ireland before leaving the pitch during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Wales and Ireland. Photo: Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile

Farrell has kept faith with the rest of the team that lost to Wales, with Hugo Keenan, Keith Earls and James Lowe on the wings and Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw in the centre, while the front-row of Cian Healy, Rob Herring and Andrew Porter remains intact.

Henderson, who impressed on his comeback as a replacement last weekend, joins Tadhg Beirne in the second-row, with Ruddock lining up alongside Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander.

Ed Byrne comes on to the bench after Dave Kilcoyne was ruled out, joining Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong in covering the front-row, while Ultan Dillane provides second-row impact and Will Connors is the back-row back-up.

Casey, Ross Byrne and Jordan Larmour provide the cover for the backline.

Meanwhile, France have made two changes to the team that opened with an impressive win over Italy with Damien Penaud coming on to the wing and Anthony Jellonch on the flank. Teddy Thomas and Dylan Cretin drop to the bench where they're joined by new additions Hassane Kolinger, Uini Atonio and Anthony Bouthier.

IRELAND: H Keenan; K Earls, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe; B Burns, J Gibson-Park; C Healy, R Herring, A Porter; T Beirne, I Henderson (capt); R Ruddock, J van der Flier, CJ Stander. Replacements: R Kelleher, E Byrne, T Furlong, U Dillane, W Connors, C Casey, R Byrne, J Larmour.

FRANCE: B Dulin, D Penaud, A Vincent, G Fickou, A Villiere; M Jalibert, A Dupont; C Baille, J Marchand, M Haouas; B Le Roux, P Willemse; A Jelonch, G Alldritt, C Ollivon (capt). Reps: P Bourgarit, H Kollinger, U Atonio, R Taofifenua, D Cretin, B Serin, A Bouthier, T Thomas.


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