02192018

Six Nations 2018: Stockdale, Aki and Ryan handed starts for Ireland

James Ryan started for Leinster in their Champions Cup wins over Montpellier

James Ryan started for Leinster in their Champions Cup wins over Montpellier

Jacob Stockdale, Bundee Aki and James Ryan will play their first Six Nations games for Ireland against France in Paris on Saturday.

Ryan, who made his Ireland debut in the summer before playing for Leinster, is selected at lock ahead of Devin Toner.

Stockdale has scored four tries in four appearances, while Aki made his debut in the autumn win over South Africa.

Cian Healy is preferred to Jack McGrath and Josh van der Flier replaces the injured Sean O’Brien in the back row.

Loose-head prop Healy retains his place having played in the last of the autumn internationals against Argentina, with McGrath returning to the match-day squad in place of the injured Dave Kilcoyne.

The back-line shows two changes from the team which defeated the Pumas as Robbie Henshaw and Keith Earls, who were both unavailable, come in to replace Chris Farrell and the injured Adam Byrne.

Henshaw renews his former midfield partnership with Aki, the ex-Connacht team-mates having previously played together in the victory over the Springboks.

Flanker Van der Flier gets the nod ahead of provincial colleague Dan Leavy, with another Leinster player, Rhys Ruddock, among coach Joe Schmidt’s casualty list.

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Six Nations 2018: Jacob Stockdale’s rapid rise to Ireland set-up

Former Ireland Under-20 captain Ryan won his first senior caps during the summer tour, coming off the bench against the United States of America and in the second Test against Japan.

The second row made his third appearance as a replacement against South Africa and was then handed his first start against Argentina.

The 21-year-old has played only 10 games for his province, five of those off the bench.

An injury to winger Andrew Conway means that Fergus McFadden is chosen among the replacements, having won the last of his 32 caps in the 2016 Six Nations.

John Ryan retains his place among the substitutes as back-up to British and Irish Lion Tadhg Furlong, alongside Toner and Leavy.

Joey Carbery is named as back-up fly-half in preference to Ian Keatley, with Luke McGrath edging out Kieran Marmion for a place in the matchday 23.

Hooker Sean Cronin is set to resume his Test career in the absence of the injured James Tracy.

Cronin was left out of Schmidt’s squads for the November series and won the most recent of his 56 caps against Australia in November 2016.

“We know France are going to be physical and we know they have got some fantastic athletes and we’re pretty sure that they will be organised because Jacques (Brunel) always gets people organised pretty quickly,” said Schmidt.

Ireland: Rob Kearney (Leinster); Keith Earls (Munster), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Bundee Aki (Connacht), Jacob Stockdale (Ulster); Johnny Sexton (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster); Cian Healy (Leinster), Rory Best (Ulster), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster); Iain Henderson (Ulster), James Ryan (Leinster); Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster).

Replacements: Sean Cronin (Leinster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), John Ryan (Munster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Dan Leavy (Leinster), Luke McGrath (Leinster), Joey Carbery (Leinster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster).

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