Van der Flier picked to start Six Nations opener against England

Josh van der Flier has been named in the starting XV for Ireland’s opening Six Nations game against England on Saturday afternoon.

The visit of England to the Aviva Stadium will mark the 25-year-old’s return to the Six Nations following his season-ending injury against France in the opening game of the competition in 2018.

The Wicklow-native made his return to rugby in a 52-10 win for Leinster over the Dragons in September, before making his comeback to the Irish fold in time for the Autumn internationals in November, during which he played a starring role in his country’s historic victory over New Zealand in Dublin.

Joe Schmidt named his starting lineup for the clash against England on Thursday, with van der Flier selected at openside flanker at the expense of the returning Seán O’Brien, who has to opt for a place on the bench.

The other big news coming out of the squad announcement is the choice of Robbie Henshaw at full-back, the first-time he has played in the role since his debut against the United States of America back in 2013.

Henshaw represents the first of two changes to the side that bested the All-Blacks in November, with Conor Murray returning to partner Johnny Sexton at scrum-half.

Elsewhere, captain Rory Best is flanked by Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong in the front row, while Peter O’Mahony starts at blindside. Jacob Stockdale and Keith Earls start on the wings, with Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose picked at inside and outside centre respectively.

Devin Toner and James Ryan have been named in the second-row, with CJ Stander rounding out the team at number eight.

Ireland XV: C. Healy, R. Best (c), T. Furlong, J. Ryan, D. Toner, P. O’Mahony, J. van der Flier, C. Stander; C. Murray, J. Sexton, J. Stockdale, B. Aki, G. Ringrose. K. Earls, R. Henshaw.

Replacements: S. Cronin, D. Kilcoyne, A. Porter, Q. Roux, S. O’Brien, J. Cooney, J. Carbery, J. Larmour.

England XV: M. Vunipola, J. George, K. Sinckler, M. Itoje, G. Kruis, M. Wilson, T. Curry, B. Vunipola; B. Youngs, E. Farrell (c), J. Nowell, M. Tuilagi, H. Slade, J. May, E. Daly.

Replacements: L. Cowan-Dickie, E. Genge, H. Williams, C. Lawes, N. Hughes, D. Robson, G. Ford, C. Ashton.

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