ROBBIE HENSHAW has been ruled out of Saturday’s Six Nations match against Scotland due to a dead-leg, joining Garry Ringrose (tight hamstring), Devin Toner (rolled ankle) and CJ Stander (facial injury) on the Irish casualty list after last weekend’s thumping defeat to England. However, the men in green have been boosted by the return of a fully-fit Rob Kearney and Sean O’Brien to the starting XV.
Kearney makes his 88th appearance for Ireland, taking the reins from Henshaw at full-back, with the only other change in the backs seeing Munster’s Chris Farrell replace Ringrose at outside centre. It will be Farrell’s second Six Nations start – his first also came alongside Bundee Aki and in an identical back-line against Wales last February.
Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray, who scored 13 points between them against Scotland last year, continue at half-back with Keith Earls shaking off a hip injury to retain the number 14 jersey. Fellow winger Jacob Stockdale bagged a brace of in last season’s 28-8 home win over Scotland, while Earls touched down against them in both 2016 and 2017.
Quinn Roux replaces Toner in the engine-room of the scrum, alongside James Ryan; while Sean O’Brien gets the nod at openside flanker for his first Six Nations start since the 2017 tournament in a back row which also included Peter O’Mahony at blind-side and Leinster number 8 Jack Conan making his second Championship start in place of Stander. Cian Healy, captain Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong form an unchanged front-row.
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt said there is no sense of panic within his camp after last weekend’s defeat.
“Not many weeks go by when I don’t get a letter suggesting somebody should play here or there,” he said. “A set play or suggesting something, and that’s when we are winning.
“When you lose you can expect people to say we need Plan A, B, C, D. I’m not sure how they summarise Plan A because we have a very varied game. We play strong off set piece, we play a varied kicking and attack game and we try to even vary our defensive game. I’ll leave them to do their analysis and we’ll keep trying to improve.
“There has been a better edge this week. Conor and Johnny hadn’t played together since Australia or played much at all. We don’t volunteer any excuses. Not many men slept well on Saturday night. It probably took us until today to get a spring back in our steps.”
Ireland (v Scotland at Murrayfield, Saturday, 2.15pm): Rob Kearney (Leinster); Keith Earls (Munster), Chris Farrell (Munster), Bundee Aki (Connacht), Jacob Stockdale (Ulster); Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster); Cian Healy (Leinster), Rory Best (Ulster) CAPTAIN, Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), James Ryan (Leinster), Quinn Roux (Connacht), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), Sean O’Brien (Leinster), Jack Conan (Leinster). Substitutes:. Sean Cronin (Leinster), Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Andrew Porter (Leinster), Ultan Dillane (Connacht), Josh van der Flier (Leinster), John Cooney (Ulster), Joey Carbery (Munster), Jordan Larmour (Leinster).
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