6N: Ireland missing Sexton, Murray, Ryan against France
DUBLIN (AP) — Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton and vice-captain James Ryan failed concussion checks and will miss the must-win Six Nations home match against France on Sunday.
Also out were two more team leaders, scrumhalf Conor Murray with a tweaked hamstring and suspended flanker Peter O’Mahony.
Following the 21-16 loss to Wales in Cardiff last Sunday, Ireland can’t afford to lose at Lansdowne Road or its title ambition is over.
Sexton and Ryan suffered head injuries against Wales, and Murray strained a hamstring in training on Thursday, meaning Ireland will start fresh halves Jamison Gibson-Park and Billy Burns in a Leinster-heavy backline.
Gibson-Park and Burns made their debuts in the autumn and will start a test together for the first time.
O'Mahony was banned for three Six Nations matches for his red card against Wales, and has been replaced by Rhys Ruddock, who appears for the first time since the 2019 Rugby World Cup quarterfinal loss to New Zealand.
Ruddock's 27th cap will mark his first Six Nations start on the back of good form for Leinster.
Lock Iain Henderson will captain Ireland for the first time. Henderson was praised for his composure by coach Andy Farrell.
“I think that was one of the really pleasing aspects of the weekend against Wales regarding going down to 14 men, there was a calmness throughout the leadership group and Iain was right, front and centre of all of that," Farrell said.
Into the reserves came the uncapped Munster scrumhalf Craig Casey.
France picked Damian Penaud on the right wing and Anthony Jelonch at flanker to replace try-scoring winger Teddy Thomas and back-rower Dylan Cretin from the team which routed Italy 50-10 in Rome last weekend.
The tough-tackling Penaud won the last of his 18 caps last March against Scotland. He gives France extra security under the high ball in Dublin.
“First of all, it must be said that Teddy played well in Italy. But Damian allows us to stand up to the aerial combat the Irish will impose on us,” coach Fabien Galthie said. “Damian seems to suit that particularity.”
Jelonch is a more robust tackler than Cretin and stronger in the rucks.
“I would say that the more difficult things get, the more intense he gets,” Galthie said. “He becomes dominant when things get more intense, which is why we choose this option.”
Thomas and Cretin are on the bench, while props Hassane Kolingar and Uini Atonio are drafted into the reserves along with fullback Anthony Bouthier.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Billy Burns, Jamison Gibson-Park; CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Rhys Ruddock, Iain Henderson (captain), Tadhg Beirne, Andrew Porter, Rob Herring, Cian Healy. Reserves: Ronan Kelleher, Ed Byrne, Tadhg Furlong, Ultan Dillane, Will Connors, Craig Casey, Ross Byrne, Jordan Larmour.
France: Brice Dulin, Damian Penaud, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou, Gabin Villiere, Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont; Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon (captain), Anthony Jelonch, Paul Willemse, Bernard Le Roux, Mohamed Haouas, Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille. Reserves: Pierre Bourgarit, Hassane Kolingar, Uini Atonio, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Anthony Bouthier, Teddy Thomas.
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