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Ireland without Furlong for Six Nations opener

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Ireland head coach Andrew Farrell has named his match-day squad to face Wales in the Millenium Stadium on the opening weekend of the 2023 Six Nations Championship.

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Jonathan Sexton will captain the side and is partnered in the halfbacks by Jamison Gibson-Park.

The centre combination from the Nations Series of Stuart McCloskey and Garry Ringrose is retained, with Hugo Keenan at fullback and Australia-born Mack Hansen getting the nod on one wing with James Lowe returning on the other having missed the November Tests through injury.

In the front row Andrew Porter and Dan Sheehan are joined by Finlay Bealham, making a first Championship start.

The Australian-born Bealham replaces Tadhg Furlong, who misses out due to a calf injury.

The British and Irish Lions prop has been bedevilled by fitness problems and played just over half an hour of rugby since the November Tests.

“Finlay deserves it. He’s playing very well,” said Farrell at his press conference post unveiling the team.

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Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan were named at lock.

Josh van der Flier is named at openside, Peter O’Mahony, set to win his 90th cap, is on the blindside flank and Caelan Doris is in the number eight slot.

Backrow forward  O’Mahony will be hoping for a happier experience on his return to Cardiff where two years ago he was sent off after just 14 minutes – the Irish put up a gutsy performance to only lose 16-21.

The Irish will start favourites against a Wales side who welcome back Warren Gatland as head coach for a second spell, even though the visitors have lost their last four matches in Cardiff.

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The replacements include Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Tom O’Toole, Iain Henderson, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Ross Byrne and Bundee Aki.

Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Mack Hansen, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jonathan Sexton (captain), 9 Jamison Gibson Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Bundee Aki

Date: Saturday, February 4
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 14.15 (14.15 GMT)
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia) & Luke Pearce (England )
TMO: Tom Foley (England)

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