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Sexton and Best back in line to start for Ireland

Johnny Sexton

The big news for Ireland ahead of their rematch against Wales is the return of British & Irish Lions Johnny Sexton and Rory Best to the starting lineup.

Sexton has recovered from leg and thumb injuries that have kept him out of Joe Schmidt’s side’s three World Cup warm-up games so far the fly-half but slots back in at No.10 outside fellow Lions tourist Conor Murray.

Meanwhile Rory Best comes back into the starting XV to earn his 120th international cap on his final international at the Aviva Stadium.

Best, who will retire this summer having been part of both the 2013 and 2017 British & Irish Lions tours alongside Sexton, will lead a strong side out in Dublin with his returning No.10 the headline act.

Best is joined by Lions Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong in the front-row with James Ryan in behind them and CJ Stander who comes in for Peter O’Mahony on the blindside.

And in the backs, Murray and World Player of the Year Sexton playing together will be an encouraging sight for Irish fans, as will Robbie Henshaw coming in at outside centre.

“You know now – barring injuries on Saturday – that this is the 31 players that are going to take us to the World Cup, and with that you get a bit of confidence, an extra spring in your step,” said Best.

“It’s a great time to be around the squad, because you don’t feel that sword’s around your neck anymore; you can just roll up your sleeves and produce the best that we can.

“The first thing for us is to get that performance on Saturday. There are a few boys who are coming in for their first game and they’ve added a bit of energy to training.

“It’s always looking forward for us. We’re always trying to get better.

Ireland Team to face Wales, Aviva Stadium, Saturday, September 7, 2pm
15. Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster)
14. Jordan Larmour (St Mary’s College/Leinster)
13. Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster)
12. Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht)
11. Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster)
10. Jonathan Sexton (St Marys College/Leinster)
9. Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)
1. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
2. Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) CAPTAIN
3. Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster)
4. James Ryan (UCD/Leinster)
5. Jean Kleyn (Munster)
6. CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster)
7. Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster)
8. Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

Replacements
16. Sean Cronin (St Mary’s College/Leinster)
17. Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster)
18. Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster)
19. Iain Henderson (Queens University/Ulster)
20. Rhys Ruddock (St Mary’s College/Leinster)
21. Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster)
22. Jack Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht)
23. Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster)

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