Ireland team to play France in Six Nations

Rugby Union - Six Nations Championship - Ireland vs Scotland - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Republic of Ireland - March 10, 2018 Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt before the match REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Powerful loose forward CJ Stander has been restored to the Ireland lineup for Sunday’s Six Nations clash at home to France, one of six changes to the pack by coach Joe Schmidt.

Stander missed Ireland’s last two matches with a facial injury, but will beef up the back of the scrum alongside Josh van der Flier and Peter O’Mahony.

Van der Flier replaces experienced loose forward Sean O’Brien, who drops out of the matchday 23 and now looks to have a fight on his hands to earn a place at the World Cup in Japan.

There is a new second-row pairing of James Ryan and Iain Henderson after the side battled with their lineout in the scrappy 26-16 victory against Italy in Rome a fortnight ago.

Also back in the side is experienced hooker Rory Best, who will captain the team and form a front row with props Cian Healy and Tadgh Furlong.

Schmidt has made just a single change to his back division as Garry Ringrose takes over at centre from Chris Farrell.

Flyhalf Jack Carty, who made his debut against Italy, will be on the bench with Joey Carbery still not recovered from a hamstring problem.

John Cooney is favoured as scrumhalf cover despite the return from injury of Kieran Marmion.

Defending champions Ireland have failed to fire in this year’s Six Nations, losing to England in their opening match before unconvincing victories over Scotland and Italy.

They welcome a France side that has not won in Dublin since 2011, but did beat the Irish in Paris three years ago.

Team: 15-Rob Kearney, 14-Keith Earls, 13-Garry Ringrose, 12-Bundee Aki, 11-Jacob Stockdale, 10-Jonathan Sexton, 9-Conor Murray, 8-CJ Stander, 7-Josh van der Flier, 6-Peter O’Mahony, 5-James Ryan, 4-Iain Henderson, 3-Tadhg Furlong, 2-Rory Best (captain), 1-Cian Healy

Replacements: 16-Niall Scannell, 17-Dave Kilcoyne, 18-John Ryan, 19-Ultan Dillane, 20-Jack Conan, 21-John Cooney, 22-Jack Carty, 23-Jordan Larmour.

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