Andy Farrell has handed Leinster No.8 Caelan Doris a Test debut against Scotland this Saturday at the expense of Peter O’Mahony in his first team announcement as Ireland head coach.
Farrell, promoted from defence coach at the end of last autumn’s World Cup campaign to succeed Joe Schmidt, did not shy away from some big calls on Tuesday as Ireland wound down their warm-weather training camp on the Algarve and prepared to fly back to Dublin.
Dropping vice-captain and flanker O’Mahony from the matchday squad for the Six Nations opener at the Aviva Stadium will see his Munster back-row team-mate CJ Stander from No.8 to the blindside to make way for the uncapped Doris, 21.
It is unquestionably a form-based selection, Doris having been an influential part of Leinster’s blistering and still unbeaten campaign to date while O’Mahony has struggled for form this season and is named on the bench.
#TeamOfUs— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) January 28, 2020
Here's the Ireland team to play Scotland in the opening round of the #GuinnessSixNations in @AVIVAStadium on Saturday.
Two uncapped players: Caelan Doris & Ronan Kelleher.#ShoulderToShoulder pic.twitter.com/Ar7nLV7Krs
Yet Farrell has gone the other way with his scrum-half options, sticking with the experience of Conor Murray to start at number nine ahead of strong claims for Ulster’s in-form John Cooney, who must settle for a place among the replacements.
Johnny Sexton, named by Farrell as captain for the Six Nations, starts at fly-half as expected having recovered from the knee injury he suffered on December 7 at Northampton while Jordan Larmour has shaken off the foot injury he sustained in Leinster’s final-round pool game at Benetton to take his place at full-back.
Larmour’s inclusion is one of six changes from the side picked by Schmidt for his final game, the World Cup quarter-final defeat to New Zealand in Tokyo on October 19. The full-back replaces Rob Kearney, who was omitted from Farrell’s squad.
Rob Herring starts at hooker in the place of retired captain Rory Best with Leinster’s Rónan Kelleher in line for a Test debut as a replacement at number two, while the right-wing berth goes to Andrew Conway ahead of Munster team-mate Keith Earls.
Bundee Aki had been suspended for the quarter-final having been sent off in the final pool game against Samoa but returns to inside centre to replace Robbie Henshaw, who moves onto the bench as the outside-back replacement.
There is also a recall for Devin Toner as second-row replacement having been omitted from Schmidt's World Cup squad.
IRELAND (to play Scotland): J Larmour (Leinster); A Conway (Munster), G Ringrose (Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Stockdale (Ulster); J Sexton (Leinster) - captain, C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Herring (Ulster), T Furlong (Leinster); I Henderson (Ulster), J Ryan (Leinster); CJ Stander (Munster), J van der Flier (Leinster), C Doris (Leinster).
Replacements: R Kelleher (Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), A Porter (Leinster), D Toner (Leinster), P O’Mahony (Munster), J Cooney (Ulster), R Byrne (Leinster), R Henshaw (Leinster).