Ross Byrne starts at fly-half as Ireland make four changes for England clash
Head coach Andy Farrell has made four changes to the Ireland side that started in their impressive win against Wales, including Ross Byrne at fly-half, for Saturday's Autumn Nations Cup game against England at Twickenham
Last Updated: 19/11/20 10:17am
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has made four changes to his starting XV for the Autumn Nations Cup game England.
Fly-half Ross Byrne will make his first Ireland start since August 2019 in Saturday's clash, while Jamison Gibson-Park retains the scrum-half role ahead of Conor Murray.
Byrne, whose only previous start came in a 57-15 drubbing at Twickenham before last year's World Cup, has been given the nod to replace injured captain Johnny Sexton and win his ninth cap ahead of fellow international rookie Billy Burns.
Long-serving scrum-half Murray must again be content with a place on the bench after New Zealand-born Gibson-Park impressed in Friday's 32-9 victory over Wales.
Centre Bundee Aki replaces the injured Robbie Henshaw in midfield, with flanker CJ Stander and winger Keith Earls the other men recalled by Farrell.
Lock James Ryan has been confirmed as stand-in captain after veteran Sexton was ruled out with a hamstring problem sustained against the Welsh.
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Meanwhile, Burns, who represented England at U20 level, has been named among the replacements against the country of his birth having made his debut from the bench last time out.
Lock Iain Henderson and full-back Jacob Stockdale are back among the replacements after fitness issues kept them sidelined last week.
Winger Andrew Conway and flanker Josh Van Der Flier - who started the win over Wayne Pivac's men - drop out of the squad completely.
Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 1 Cian Healy, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 3 Andrew Porter, 4 Quinn Roux, 5 James Ryan, 6 CJ Stander, 7 Peter O'Mahony, 8 Caelan Doris.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Will Connors, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Jacob Stockdale.
Farrell 'excited' but not making promises
The Irish head to London having been soundly beaten on each of their three previous meetings with England, and Farrell admits he cannot guarantee Ireland will snap their dismal recent record against last year's World Cup finalists.
"You can't make promises," Farrell said. "I've not got a crystal ball. But what I do know is that this is a different group and it's a different game at the weekend.
"We've got new combinations all over the field that are coming together and learning from these type of experiences all the time.
"They've trained well, prepared well and they can't wait to get out there and show what they can do.
"How that transpires, I suppose we will have to wait and see because a game takes its own course and you've got to be good enough to make sure that you have a good feel of what is happening and be adaptable along the way.
"I am excited about seeing how they go."
It is only a second international start for stand-off Byrne in place of the injured Sexton, but Farrell believes the 25-year-old merits an opportunity to stake a claim for regular action.
"He deserves the chance," Farrell said. "How do you find out how they cope with the big games, the big occasions unless you give them the chance?
"We can't just give them the chance of picking a squad and training the whole time.
"Ross has been involved in some big games for Leinster and this is his chance to go to Twickenham and be part of a great team performance.
"Everyone's got a different temperament and Ross will be his own guy. How Ross tends to play the game is very cool, calm and collected."
Farrell added that 24-year-old Ryan was an obvious candidate for the captaincy.
"Over the last couple of years, everyone has talked about James being a potential leader for this team, a potential captain for this team," Farrell said.
"I saw something nine months ago when we went into the Six Nations where he actually started to think, 'While people are talking about me in this vein, maybe I should start do something about it'.
"He has 100 per cent come to the fore in his curiousness of how he wants to lead. I've been super impressed how he handles himself first and foremost and how he interacts and thinks about others as well."