Robbie Henshaw to start at full-back for Ireland vs England in Six Nations
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 01/02/19 6:40am
Robbie Henshaw will start Ireland's Six Nations opener against England at full-back on Saturday in a surprise selection from head coach Joe Schmidt.
Henshaw, who has not started a game in the 15 shirt for Ireland since his debut in 2013, has played almost exclusively at both inside centre and outside centre since moving from Connacht to Leinster in 2016.
But in the absence of customary full-back Rob Kearney due to fitness concerns, Schmidt has plumped for Henshaw in the back-field as Garry Ringrose and Bundee Aki line up in the centres. Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale maintain their places on the wings.
Henshaw missed out on Ireland's autumn internationals due to a hamstring injury, and missed three of Ireland's five Six Nations games during last year's Grand Slam after picking up a shoulder dislocation.
Elsewhere for Ireland, Johnny Sexton is fit enough to start at out-half having not played since December 29, and is joined at half-back by scrum-half Conor Murray for the first time since June - Murray having missed out in November due to a neck complaint.
Josh van der Flier has held off competition from Sean O'Brien - who takes his place on the bench - for the openside flanker spot, joining Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander in the back-row.
The rest of the forward pack is as expected, with a front row of Cian Healy, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong, and second row of James Ryan and Devin Toner.
Among the bench, Munster's Dave Kilcoyne is picked ahead of Jack McGrath at loosehead, Connacht's Quinn Roux provides second row cover in the injury-enforced absences of Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne, while Jordan Larmour takes the 23 shirt ahead of Will Addison and Andrew Conway.
Ireland welcome England to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday for a 4.45pm kick off in Round 1 of the 2019 Six Nations, with France hosting Wales on Friday and Scotland welcoming Italy on Saturday.
Ireland: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray; 1 Cian Healy, 2 Rory Best, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 Devin Toner, 5 James Ryan, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 7 Josh van der Flier, 8 CJ Stander.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Sean O'Brien, 21 John Cooney, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Jordan Larmour.