Sexton returns for France clash

Date published: February 12 2015

Jonathan Sexton returns for Ireland as one of three changes to their team ahead of this weekend's Six Nations clash with France.

The Irish powered to a 26-3 win on the opening weekend in Italy, taking advantage of Leonardo Ghiraldini's yellow card to run in two tries just after the hour-mark.

They should face a sterner task against les Bleus who were functional, if not outstanding, in seeing off Scotland 15-8.

And while last week Joe Schmidt was without a host of key players, he has virtually a full pack to select from this week, with Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien recalled to the back row.

There is also a welcome return on the bench with Cian Healy fit to take his place, while Rory Best has come through his concussion testing to start again at hooker.

Munster Tommy O'Donnell and Ian Keatley, who started at openside and fly-half respectively last week, miss out on a spot on the bench, with Schmidt preferring Jordi Murphy and Ian Madigan.

Ireland beat France 22-20 in Paris last season to clinch the Six Nations title, their first win over les Bleus since 2009. The previous two encounters between the sides, including the last game in Dublin, ended in draws.

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell (c), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Martin Moore, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Felix Jones

Date: Saturday, February 14
Kick-off: 17:00 local
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
AR1: Nigel Owens (Wales)
AR2: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)