First start at fly-half for Billy Burns as Farrell rings changes for Georgia Test

First start at fly-half for Billy Burns as Farrell rings changes for Georgia Test

Jacob Stockdale has been restored at full-back in a much-changed side for Ireland’s Autumn Nations Cup clash with Georgia in Dublin on Sunday. Head coach Andy Farrell has made nine changes and three positional switches from the side beaten 18-7 by England at Twickenham last Saturday and has also named uncapped Munster back Shane Daly among his replacements, one of four squad members getting their first opportunities of the six-game Test window.

James Ryan captains the side for the second successive week have led Ireland for the first time at Twickenham in the absence of regular skipper Johnny Sexton, whose continued absence since sustaining a hamstring strain against Wales on November 13 means a first start at fly-half for Ulster’s Billy Burns.

Another Ulsterman, Stuart McCloskey, gets the nod at inside centre in a midfield partnership with Chris Farrell, while Stockdale’s inclusion at full-back sees Hugo Keenan revert to the wing for the first time since the October 31 Six Nations game against France in Paris. Keenan, who will win his fifth cap, gets his first start on the right wing having played on the left against Italy and France in October and full-back against Wales and England, as Keith Earls switches from right to left to replace James Lowe. Burns partners the returning Conor Murray in the half-backs.

The forwards pack sees Iain Henderson come into the second row for Quinn Roux and Rob Herring in at hooker for Ronan Kelleher as Farrell attempts to fix the lineout which let Ireland down so badly against England.

In the front row, Cian Healy is rested at loosehead after four successive starts this autumn with Connacht’s Finlay Bealham handed his first Test start since 2018. It will also be Bealham’s first outing as a starting loosehead, having covered for that side of the scrum only twice previously in 13 Ireland appearances, most recently last weekend.

Ireland’s back-row selection sees CJ Stander move from blindside flanker to No.8 in place of Caelan Doris with his Munster team-mate Tadhg Beirne moving into the number six jersey for his first start in the position since last year’s World Cup, when started on the blindside against Samoa. Will Connors starts at openside as he swaps places with Peter O’Mahony.

There could also be first involvements during this Ireland camp for replacements John Ryan, unused as a tighthead sub at Twickenham, and scrum-half Kieran Marmion.

IRELAND (v Georgia): J Stockdale (Ulster); H Keenan (Leinster), C Farrell (Munster), S McCloskey (Ulster), K Earls (Munster); B Burns (Ulster), C Murray (Munster); F Bealham (Connacht), R Herring (Ulster), A Porter (Leinster); I Henderson (Ulster), James Ryan (Leinster) - captain; T Beirne (Munster), W Connors (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster).

Replacements: R Heffernan (Ulster), C Healy (Leinster), John Ryan (Munster), Q Roux (Connacht), P O’Mahony (Munster), K Marmion (Connacht), R Byrne (Leinster), S Daly (Munster).

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