Ireland make four changes for Rugby World Cup encounter against Tonga

Colin Newboult

Josh van der Flier featuring for Ireland against Romania in the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Ireland are close to full-strength for their Rugby World Cup clash against Tonga in Nantes on Saturday.

Dan Sheehan remains absent despite returning to training this week, while Jamison Gibson-Park misses out, but Andy Farrell has otherwise named his best 23.

The head coach has made four changes to the side that thrashed Romania 82-8 in their World Cup opener, with Ronan Kelleher taking Sheehan’s usual place at hooker.

Rob Herring, who started in the front-row against the Oaks, drops to the bench where another injury-returnee, Dave Kilcoyne, resides.

Other alterations

Mack Hansen is another player to return to the run-on team, joining Hugo Keenan and James Lowe in an extremely talented back three.

The second change in the backline sees Conor Murray join captain Johnny Sexton at half-back, while Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose once again combine at centre.

Up front, World Rugby Player of the Year Josh van der Flier is selected in the back-row and forms a loose trio with Caelan Doris and Peter O’Mahony.


That means Tadhg Beirne, who was in the back-row against Romania, moves back to lock, where he partners James Ryan.

Farrell will hope that decision, alongside the inclusion of Kelleher at hooker, will aid the lineout, which struggled in their tournament opener.

The scrum, by contrast, went well, and top-class props Tadhg Furlong and Andrew Porter continue at tighthead and loosehead, respectively.

On the bench, there is once again plenty of impact, despite Jack Conan being absent due to his foot injury, with Herring, Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Ryan Byrne, Craig Casey, Ross Byrne and Robbie Henshaw completing the line-up.

The team

Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Mack Hansen, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (c), 9 Conor Murray, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 1 Andrew Porter
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 David Kilcoyne, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Ryan Baird, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Robbie Henshaw

Date: Saturday, September 16
Venue: Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes
Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 BST, 19:00 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Matthew Carley (England), Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)

READ MORE: Every team’s injury lists and updates for the Rugby World Cup