Six Nations 2015: Ireland welcome back Heaslip and Sexton for France
Head coach Joe Schmidt makes two changes to the side that lined up against Italy last weekend
Ireland welcome back number eight Jamie Heaslip and out-half Jonathan Sexton to face France in Saturday’s Six Nations championship tie in Dublin.
Leinster back-row forward Jordi Murphy, who started in the 26-3 victory over Italy last week, drops to the replacements bench, while Munster out-half Ian Keatley is omitted from the 23-man squad altogether.
I don’t think they quite showed their hand last week, they’re a much better side than that.
Sean O’Brien returns at openside flanker at Tommy O’Donnell’s expense, while Cian Healy returns from injury to take a place on the bench.
And Munster flanker Peter O’Mahony knows his side must improve on their opening victory if they are to beat the imposing France side.
“There’s always a fear factor with France and it really is true that they’re always unpredictable,” O’Mahony told the Six Nations website.
“I don’t think they quite showed their hand last week, they’re a much better side than that.
“With Mathieu Bastareaud and their back row, they’re a strong and dangerous side.
“You knock them back two or three phases in defence and they go down the short side, and third or fourth phase in they’re always just so dangerous.
“The fear is always there with France.”
This weekend’s game is Ireland’s first Six Nations game in Dublin since legendary centre Brian O’Driscoll’s retirement, and history is on the side of the hosts.
The Irish defeated the French in Paris 22-20 en route to winning last year’s trophy, and France are infamously poor travellers, having won just three away matches out of 15 under Philippe Saint-Andre.
Les Bleus have never won at the Aviva Stadium, and have been forced to make one change as Eddy Ben Arous comes in for the injured prop Alexandre Menini.
Ireland: Rob Kearney (Leinster); Tommy Bowe (Ulster), Jared Payne (Ulster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Simon Zebo (Munster); Jonathan Sexton (Racing Metro), Conor Murray (Munster); Jack McGrath (Leinster) Rory Best (Ulster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Paul O’Connell (Munster, captain), Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Sean O’Brien (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster).
Replacements:Sean Cronin (Leinster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Martin Moore (Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Jordi Murphy (Leinster); Isaac Boss (Leinster), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Felix Jones (Munster).