Andy Farrell makes nine changes to Ireland team to face Georgia on Sunday in Autumn Nations Cup; Centre Stuart McCloskey in for the first time in over two years; Conor Murray, Billy Burns, Jacob Stockdale, Finlay Bealham, Rob Herring, Iain Henderson, Tadhg Beirne, Will Connors all in too.
By Michael Cantillon @mike_cantillon
Last Updated: 26/11/20 1:19pm
Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey will pick up just his fourth Test cap for Ireland against Georgia on Sunday, and first in over two years, as head coach Andy Farrell makes nine changes.
Following Ireland’s 18-7 defeat to England at Twickenham last week, Farrell has reshuffled his back-line with four changes in total.
Both the half-backs are changed, with Munster’s Conor Murray and Ulster’s Billy Burns – the latter’s maiden Test start – coming in to start in place of Leinster pair Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne respectively.
The back-three is also altered, with Leinster wing James Lowe dropping out, Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale coming in to start at full-back, and Leinster’s Hugo Keenan pushed out to the right wing. Munster’s Keith Earls swaps wings to start on the left.
In midfield, Munster centre Chris Farrell keeps his place to start alongside McCloskey, with Connacht’s Bundee Aki dropping from the squad.
In the forwards, there are five changes. In the front-row, Ulster’s Rob Herring replaces Leinster hooker Ronan Kelleher, while Connacht prop Finlay Bealham – ordinarily a tighthead – starts at loosehead. Andrew Porter starts his fifth game in succession at tighthead.
In the second row, Ulster’s Iain Henderson replaces Connacht’s Quinn Roux to start alongside skipper James Ryan, while the back-row sees Munster’s Tadhg Beirne brought onto the blindside and Leinster’s Will Connors onto the openside either side of CJ Stander at No 8.
On the bench, uncapped Munster back Shane Daly is in line to make his Test debut, while Connacht hooker Dave Heffernan and scrum-half Kieran Marmion, and Munster tighthead John Ryan all return.
Ireland: 15 Jacob Stockdale,14 Hugo Keenan, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Conor Murray; 1 Finlay Bealham, 2 Rob Herring, 3 Andrew Porter, 4 Iain Henderson, 5 James Ryan (c), 6 Tadhg Beirne, 7 Will Connors, 8 CJ Stander.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Cian Healy, 18 John Ryan, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Peter O’Mahony, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Shane Daly.