Flanker Sean O’Brien and full-back Rob Kearney are back in the Ireland starting XV
Joe Schmidt’s side face France in Paris on Saturday
Both missed last weekend’s bruising 16-16 draw against Wales
The men in green will be without Simon Zebo and Keith Earls
Joe Schmidt welcomes back Sean O’Brien and fullback Rob Kearney to his Ireland team but will be without Simon Zebo and Keith Earls for their Six Nations clash with France in Paris on Saturday.
Both flanker O’Brien and fullback Kearney missed last weekend’s opening 16-16 home draw with Wales in which talismanic kicker Johnny Sexton picked up a shoulder knock.
The defending champions are struggling with a spate of injuries so news of this trio’s inclusion for Saturday’s trip, meaning the returns of key personnel will come as a welcome boost to the Ireland head coach.
Kearney’s younger brother Dave comes in on the left wing instead of Earls, who along with Munster flyer Zebo miss the trip to Paris through injury.
O’Brien’s return to the back row means Tommy O’Donnell loses his starting position and is on the replacements’ bench at the Stade de France.
Fly-half JSexton and winger Andrew Trimble have been passed fit, having got over knocks. Sexton suffered a heavy blow to the chest on Sunday while Trimble had a shoulder problem.
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt delayed naming the team until after Thursday’s training session in order to assess his injury issues.
“We were just trying to clarify the fitness of Simon Zebo and Keith Earls, both of whom we have left out of the squad,” Schmidt said.
“They got through training and at the same time we just felt they weren’t 100 per cent fit. We just felt it was a risk.”
Fergus McFadden was overlooked for Ireland’s initial Six Nations squad, but the Leinster wing was brought into the training squad as cover earlier in the week and the 29-year-old has been named on the bench.
Team: 15. Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster), 14. Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster), 13. Jared Payne (Ulster), 12. Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht), 11. Dave Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster), 10. Jonathan Sexton (St Mary’s College/Leinster), 9. Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster), 1. Jack McGrath (St Mary’s College/Leinster), 2. Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster – captain), 3. Nathan White (Connacht), 4. Mike McCarthy (Lansdowne/Leinster), 5. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), 6. CJ Stander (Munster), 7. Sean O’Brien (UCD/Leinster), 8. Jamie Heaslip (Dublin University/Leinster)
Replacements: 16. Richard Strauss (Old Wesley/Leinster), 17. James Cronin (Dolphin/Munster), 18. Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster), 19. Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), 20. Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster), 21. Eoin Reddan (Old Crescent/Leinster), 22. Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster), 23. Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster).