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Six Nations: Hugo Keenan returns for Ireland side to face England with Garry Ringrose out despite return to fitness

Hugo Keenan makes his return to Ireland's side after suffering an injury in their win over Italy earlier in the Six Nations; England take on Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday March 9, with kick-off at 4.45pm

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Sky Sports' John Dennen and Megan Wellens look ahead to this weekend's Six Nations fixtures including the huge clash between Ireland and England at Twickenham

Hugo Keenan makes his return to Ireland's starting line-up after recovering from injury as they take on England in round four of the Six Nations.

Keenan last played against Italy in round two but now retakes his place at full-back. However, there is no place in the squad for Garry Ringrose despite the outside centre's return to fitness.

Lock James Ryan is out with injury as Iain Henderson takes his place among the replacements.

Keenan joins Calvin Nash and James Lowe in the back three, with Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw continuing at centre as their strong displays so far in the tournament have convinced head coach Andy Farrell to stick with the same pairing even though Ringrose trained fully with the side this week having missed their opening three games with injury.

Jack Crowley and Jamison Gibson-Park are the consistent half-back pairing once again, backs Conor Murray and Ciaran Frawley the options on the bench as head coach Andy Farrell once again plumps for a 6:2 split.

In the pack, Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong are in the front row with Joe McCarthy and Tadhg Beirne at lock.

Captain Peter O'Mahony is at blindside flanker, Josh van der Flier is at openside and Caelan Doris completes the starting XV at No 8.

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Alongside the backs options, Ronan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Henderson, Ryan Baird and Jack Conan make up the rest of the bench.

Ireland's Hugo Keenan, right, holds off South Africa's Jesse Kriel during the Rugby World Cup Pool B match between South Africa and Ireland at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, outside Paris, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Image: Hugo Keenan is back for Ireland for their match against England

Ireland team to face England:

Ireland XV: 15. Hugo Keenan, 14. Calvin Nash, 13. Robbie Henshaw, 12. Bundee Aki, 11. James Lowe, 10. Jack Crowley, 9. Jamison Gibson-Park, 1. Andrew Porter, 2. Dan Sheehan, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Joe McCarthy, 5. Tadhg Beirne, 6. Peter O'Mahony, 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Caelan Doris

Replacements: 16. Ronan Kelleher, 17. Cian Healy, 18. Finlay Bealham,19. Iain Henderson, 20. Ryan Baird, 21. Jack Conan, 22. Conor Murray, 23. Ciaran Frawley

England team to face Ireland

England XI: 15. George Furbank, 14. Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, 13. Henry Slade, 12. Ollie Lawrence, 11. Tommy Freeman, 10. George Ford, 9. Alex Mitchell, 1. Ellis Genge, 2. Jamie George, 3. Dan Cole, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. George Martin, 6. Ollie Chessum, 7. Sam Underhill, 8. Ben Earl

Replacements: 16. Theo Dan, 17. Joe Marler, 18. Will Stuart, 19. Chandler Cunningham-South, 20. Alex Dombrandt, 21. Danny Care, 22. Marcus Smith, 23. Elliot Daly

Farrell expects tough challenge as Ireland aim to carry on streak

Andy Farrell (PA Images)
Image: Andy Farrell greets fans (PA Images)

Ireland boss Andy Farrell's in-form side are odds-on favourites for a fifth successive victory over their rivals to stay on course for back-to-back Guinness Six Nations Grand Slams following bonus-point wins over France, Italy and Wales - but he doesn't expect it to be easy against England at Twickenham.

In the first year of Farrell's reign, he lost twice to his home country - but Ireland have since dominated the fixture, including clinching last year's championship clean sweep with a 29-16 success in Dublin. Extending the winning streak could see the visitors retain their crown with a fixture to spare.

While Farrell was not entirely satisfied with his side's performances in their last two Six Nations wins over the Red Rose, he refused to rule out another fragmented affair this weekend.

"I'm not Mystic Meg, I don't know what's going to happen," he replied, when asked if he was confident of avoiding a repeat of the disjointed displays.

"You take every game on its own course really and judge it and England did very well at slowing us down last year.

"There were a lot of stoppages within the game and it wasn't just errors, the game was slow.

"Whether that's a tactic of theirs or not, I don't know, but we'll have to expect more of the same I would have thought."

Image: Andy Farrell has built a special Ireland team

Farrell won eight England caps during his playing days and later served his country as a coach under Stuart Lancaster before being let go by Jones following a dismal home World Cup in 2015.

The former dual-code international dismissed any notion of sentiment as he prepares for his latest Twickenham return.

"It's no different to any other game," said Farrell. "We, and certainly I, concentrate on the week ahead and this game is no more important than the first game in Marseille or no more important than the Italy game or the Wales game at home.

"It's another chance for us to go out there and show the best of ourselves, albeit a tough old task.

"Everyone knows it's a tough place to go and get a victory. But that's the challenge in front of us every week."

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