Ireland team: Huge injury blow, a surprise snub and a 6-2 split for Six Nations opener

Colin Newboult
Garry Ringrose in action for Ireland during the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Garry Ringrose in action for Ireland during the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Andy Farrell has rewarded the form of youngster Joe McCarthy by handing him a start for Ireland’s Six Nations game against France.

The 22-year-old impressed off the bench in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand and has carried that form into this season with Leinster.

McCarthy has been one of the Dubliners’ shining lights and, as a result, gets an opportunity alongside Tadhg Beirne in the second-row.

James Ryan ousted

That means James Ryan, who was considered one of Ireland’s captaincy options, makes way and is placed on the bench.

Elsewhere in the pack, there are few surprises for the France clash with Leinster trio Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong once again linking up in the front-row.

Behind them at flanker are Josh van der Flier and Johnny Sexton’s successor as captain, Peter O’Mahony, with number eight Caelan Doris completing the loose trio.

Speaking of Sexton, Munster’s Jack Crowley gets the first shot at the fly-half jersey following the legendary playmaker’s retirement.

He will be hoping to nail down that shirt long-term with a fine performance in the opening match of the Six Nations.

Crowley combines with the experienced Jamison Gibson-Park at half-back, while he has Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw – who is in for the injured Garry Ringrose – outside him at centre.

In the back three, James Lowe has proved his fitness for Leinster to start on the left wing with Calvin Nash, who wins a second cap, coming in for the injured Mack Hansen on the right.

The ever-reliable Hugo Keenan continues at full-back to complete a talented XV.

There is also plenty of quality on the bench as Farrell opts for a 6-2 split. Ronan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Ryan, Ryan Baird and Jack Conan are the forward replacements, with Conor Murray and Ciaran Frawley covering the backs.

Ireland side to take on France

Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter
Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 James Ryan, 20 Ryan Baird, 21 Jack Conan, 22 Conor Murray, 23 Ciaran Frawley

Date: Friday, February 2
Venue: Orange Velodrome, Marseille
Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 GMT)
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant Referees: Matthew Carley (England), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

READ MORE: Expert Witness: Bernard Jackman backs James Ryan snub as the ‘right call’ with Ireland seeking to ‘cure’ World Cup hangover