Ross Byrne starts at out-half in Ireland team to face England

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Simon Lewis

Andy Farrell sprang some surprises on Wednesday as he revealed his team to face England at Twickenham on Saturday, preferring Quinn Roux and Jamison Gibson-Park over more experienced rivals on the back of strong performances last week.

Both lock Roux and scrum-half Gibson-Park, who was making his first start last Friday, have been retained from the Autumn Nations Cup opening win over Wales, ahead of Iain Henderson and Conor Murray, both of whom had been expected to make their returns to the starting line-up.

Head coach Farrell had made seven changes for the Wales game from the side beaten in Paris on the last day of the Six Nations campaign a fortnight earlier and his decision to look at fresh blood was rewarded with a bright team performance that delivered a 32-9 victory over the Welsh.

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There are just four changes from that winning XV, with Ross Byrne replacing injured captain Johnny Sexton at fly-half, Bundee Aki in for the injured Robbie Henshaw at inside centre, and Keith Earls being promoted from the bench to the right wing in place of Munster team-mate Andrew Conway.

The forward pack shows the other change, CJ Stander replacing Josh van der Flier but not returning to No.8, the position retained by Caelan Doris. Stander comes in at blindside flanker with Peter O’Mahony moving across to the openside to fill the vacancy created by van der Flier’s omission.

Roux will partner new captain James Ryan in the second row despite Henderson’s recovery from a “medical issue” while the front row is also unchanged.

With Gibson-Park retaining the number nine jersey, he forms a familiar half-back partnership with Leinster team-mate Byrne, who will make his first start at number 10 since Ireland’s calamitous visit to Twickenham in August 2019, when Eddie Jones’ side hammered Joe Schmidt’s World Cup hopefuls 57-15.

Aki forms a centre partnership with Chris Farrell while Hugo Keenan holds onto the full-back jersey despite Jacob Stockdale overcoming a calf injury that forced him out of the Wales game.

Stockdale, Murray, and Henderson all figure among the replacements with Will Connors getting the nod as back-row cover and Bath-born Billy Burns chosen as back-up fly-half having come through Return To Play protocols following a Head Injury Assessment in the Wales game.

Ireland team to play England - Autumn Nations Cup

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 3 caps

14. Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 85 caps

13. Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster) 11 caps

12. Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 28 caps

11. James Lowe (Leinster) 1 cap

10. Ross Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 8 caps

9. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 3 caps

1. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 101 caps

2. Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 4 caps

3. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 29 caps

4. Quinn Roux (Connacht/Galwegians) 13 caps

5. James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 29 caps CAPTAIN

6. CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 43 caps

7. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 70 caps

8. Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 5 caps

Replacements

16. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 13 caps

17. Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 3 caps

18. Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 12 caps

19. Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 55 caps

20. Will Connors (Leinster/UCD) 3 caps

21. Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 84 caps

22. Billy Burns (UIster) 1 cap

23. Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 30 caps

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