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Sexton starts in Dublin as Best says farewell

Sexton starts in Dublin as Best says farewell

Johnny Sexton returns to the fray for Ireland on what promises to be a historic occasion at the Aviva Stadium, with skipper Rory Best set to win his 120th cap in his final appearance on home soil.

Sexton is set to make his first international appearance of the summer in Ireland’s final Rugby World Cup warm-up against Wales, a week after Ireland downed Warren Gatland’s men 22-17 in Cardiff.

He will be partnered with Conor Murray at half-back, with Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw the centre partnership.

The back three sees Rob Kearney slotting in at full-back, with Keith Earls returning on the left wingand Jordan Larmour getting the nod on the right.

In the forwards, Best – who announced that he will retire from the international game after the World Cup – packs down alongside Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong, with James Ryan and Jean Kleyn behind at lock, and CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan completing the XV in the back row.

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“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.”

On the replacements bench, the forward cover is provided by Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Iain Henderson and Rhys Ruddock while the backs are Luke McGrath, Jack Carty and Garry Ringrose.

 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)


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)