Six Nations: Sexton returns as Ireland make seven changes for Italy clash

Johnny Sexton returns to the squad after missing out against France. Photo By Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ireland refreshed their pack for Saturday's Six Nations trip to Italy and welcomed Johnny Sexton back after the captain missed the loss to leaders France in a disappointing start to the tournament.

Ireland boss Andy Farrell has made seven changes from their disappointing start to the tournament. Ronan Kelleher, who scored one of only two Irish tries in their opening two defeats, starts at hooker alongside Tadhg Furlong and Munster's David Kilcoyne. Flanker Will Connors gets his first start this year after some impressive cameos.

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Sexton and second row James Ryan have recovered from concussion and along with wing Jordan Larmour are the other changes to the side outplayed by France for much of the game as coach Andy Farrell resisted calls to blood some younger players.

Munster's 21-year-old scrum-half Craig Casey, an unused substitute against the French, however win his first cap off the bench in Rome. Leinster lock Ryan Baird is also in line for a debut having made the matchday squad for the first time.

Ireland lost 21-16 to Wales in their opener and 15-13 to France.


Starting XV:

Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Jonathan Sexton(C), Jamison Gibson Park, David Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Will Connors, CJ Stander.


Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Craig Casey, Billy Burns, Keith Earls.