New front row for Ireland as Farrell makes seven changes for Italy clash

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New Front Row For Ireland As Farrell Makes Seven Changes For Italy Clash
Ireland Rugby Squad Training, IRFU High Performance Centre, Sport Ireland Campus, Blanchardstown, Dublin 24/2/2021 Tadhg Furlong Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
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Ed Eilliot, PA

Ireland have named a revamped front row of Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong as part of seven personnel changes for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash with Italy.

Skipper Johnny Sexton and vice-captain James Ryan will return from head injuries in Rome but Conor Murray remains absent due to a hamstring injury, meaning Jamison Gibson-Park will continue at scrum-half.

Ryan’s recall alongside Iain Henderson in the second row has resulted in Tadhg Beirne switching to blindside flanker in place of Rhys Ruddock, with Will Connors taking over from Josh Van Der Flier at openside.

Jordan Larmour is preferred to Keith Earls on the right wing, while Leinster lock Ryan Baird and Munster scrum-half Craig Casey could make their Test debuts from the bench.

Ireland have made their worst start to a Six Nations campaign and will be seeking to bounce back from defeats to Wales and France at Stadio Olimpico.

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Head coach Andy Farrell’s front-row reshuffle sees Rob Herring, Cian Healy and Andrew Porter drop to the bench.

Leinster hooker Kelleher has been rewarded for his try-scoring cameo in the 15-13 defeat to Les Bleus on February 14 with a first Championship start.

2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship Round 2, Aviva Stadium, Co. Dublin 14/2/2021 Ireland vs France Ireland's Ronan Kelleher scores a try ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Loosehead prop Kilcoyne has won 32 of his 40 caps as a replacement and will start a Test for the first time since the 2019 World Cup pool stage, while tighthead Furlong will begin an international match for the first time in a year.

Influential Leinster duo Sexton and Ryan make welcome returns after being forced to sit out the France game having suffered head knocks on the opening weekend in Cardiff.

CJ Stander continues in the centre of the back row, with Robbie Henshaw – winning his 50th cap – and Garry Ringrose once again the preferred midfield partnership.

Full-back Hugo Keenan and New Zealand-born wing James Lowe retain their starting spots.

Fly-half Billy Burns, who deputised for Sexton a fortnight ago, is back among the replacements, alongside Herring, Healy, Porter, Baird, Casey, Earls and Jack Conan.

Opponents Italy, who last beat Ireland in March 2013, will be bidding to avoid a 30th successive Six Nations defeat.

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