Wicklow pair picked to start against Italy in Guinness Series warm-up

Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan will start for Ireland against Italy as Joe Schmidt’s side prepare for the upcoming Guinness Series.

Ireland make their return to Soldier Field in Chicago for the first time since their historic victory over New Zealand in 2016 when they take on Italy on Saturday night.

Josh van der Flier will play in a green jersey for the first-time since suffering a season-ending knee injury in Ireland’s Six Nations opening day victory over France in February.

Meanwhile, Bray-native Conan will be earning his 10th cap for the national side when he starts at number eight, almost nine months on from earning his Six Nations debut in a 56-19 win over Saturday’s opponents.

Speaking ahead of Saturday night’s game, Joe Schmidt said: “It’s a squad we’re really excited about seeing.

“There are a few guys in there who, maybe, need a bit more time — a bit more catch-up time. There are a few guys who haven’t had a lot of game time recently. […] As you go through it, there is a bit of catch-up, there’s a bit of opportunity so that we can get as fine tuned as possible for the next two weeks while, at the same time, giving Italy the respect they deserve.”

Rhys Ruddock, who captains Ireland against Italy, joins van der Flier and Conan in the back-row. Meanwhile, Andrew Porter and Jack McGrath flank Niall Scannell in the front row, with Tadhg Beirne and Quinn Roux teaming up in the second row.

Luke McGrath and Joey Carbery are named as the half-back pairing, with Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose at inside and outside centre respectively.

Finally, Jordon Larmour starts at fullback with Andrew Conway and Jacob Stockdale on the wings.

Ross Byrne and Will Addison — the two uncapped presences in the squad — have been named in the subs along with Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Devin Toner, Jordi Murphy and John Cooney.

Ireland vs Italy kicks-off at 8pm Irish time, and is being aired live on eir Sport (including the eir Sport Facebook and YouTube channels)

Ireland XV to start vs Italy:

15. Jordan Larmour (Leinster)
14. Andrew Conway (Munster)
13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster)
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht)
11. Jacob Stockdale (Ulster)

10. Joey Carbery (Munster)
9. Luke McGrath (Leinster)
1. Jack McGrath (Leinster)
2. Niall Scannell (Munster)
3. Andrew Porter (Leinster)
4. Tadhg Beirne (Munster)
5. Quinn Roux (Connacht)
6. Rhys Ruddock (c) (Leinster)
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster)
8. Jack Conan (Leinster)

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