Johnny Sexton finally gets the opportunity to prove his World Cup fitness as he will start at fly-half at Ireland’s clash with Wales on Saturday.
The British and Irish Lions playmaker and leg and thumb injuries have fought all summer, overlooking the three World Cup warm-up fittings of Ireland up to now.
The 34-year-old hasn’t tasted activity since Ireland’s 25-7 loss to Wales in the Six Nations in March which sealed the Grand Slam to the side of Warren Gatland.
Sexton will soon be back in use with his Lions half-back spouse Conor Murray using their Pool A opener against Scotland approaching on September 22, for the final World Cup warm-up of Ireland.
Robbie Henshaw makes his first start of the warm-up campaign, slotting in at outside centre to partner his older Connacht team-mate Bundee Aki in a robust pairing.
Jack Conan is pushing to get a starting berth against Scotland and has yet another chance.
Assistant coach Andy Farrell insisted Henshaw, Murray and Sexton are fully fit and ready to get cracking.
“Raring to go, they’ve been held back for at least a week or two and can not wait for going this weekend.
“We are following a functionality we’re proud of, along with it being Rory Best and Joe Schmidt’s past games at the Aviva. But we’ve also got to choose the ideal mental attitude moving forward into Japan.”
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 1 Cian Healy, 2 Rory Best (c), 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 James Ryan, 5 Jean Kleyn, 6 CJ Stander, seven Josh van der Flier, 8 Jack Conan
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Garry Ringrose
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