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Ireland captain Johnny Sexton will make his first competitive appearance in almost six months after being selected to start Saturday’s Rugby World Cup clash with Romania.
Fly-half Sexton missed his country’s three warm-up matches through suspension, having not played since injuring a groin as Ireland clinched the Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam on March 18.
The 38-year-old, who will retire after the tournament, will partner Leinster team-mate Jamison Gibson-Park on his long-awaited comeback in Bordeaux.
Ulster hooker Rob Herring will fill the void left by Dan Sheehan’s foot injury, with Ronan Kelleher, who sat out last month’s wins over Italy, England and Samoa amid a hamstring issue, on the bench.
Lock Joe McCarthy, the least experienced international in Ireland’s 33-man group, will make only his second Test start, alongside vice-captain James Ryan.
Wing Mack Hansen and world player of the year Josh van der Flier, who is on the bench, are notable absentees from the line-up.
Keith Earls has been selected ahead of Hansen on the right wing, with Van der Flier’s non-selection resulting in Peter O’Mahony lining up at openside flanker and Tadhg Beirne switching from the second row to blindside.
Head coach Andy Farrell has selected the bulk of his star names, including 10 Leinster players, for the Pool B opener.
First-choice props Andrew Porter and Tadhg Furlong join Herring in the front row, while number eight Caelan Doris completes the back row.
Playmakers Gibson-Park and Sexton will line up ahead of centres Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose.
Wing James Lowe and full-back Hugo Keenan are among six World Cup debutants in the starting team.
That figure increases to 10 when including a bench which will be needed amid forecast temperatures of around 35 degrees Celsius at Stade de Bordeaux.
Kelleher is joined among the replacements by fellow tournament newcomers Jeremy Loughman, Tom O’Toole and Jack Crowley, in addition to Iain Henderson, Van Der Flier, Conor Murray and Robbie Henshaw.
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