New Ireland head coach Andy Farrell was in awe of the way captain Johnny Sexton carried his side in his first appearance for club or country in almost two months.

As former assistant Farrell takes on the senior coaching role following Joe Schmidt's post-Rugby World Cup departure, Sexton is now the Ireland skipper after Rory Best retired.

And the Leinster fly-half was at his influential best on Saturday to secure a 19-12 victory at home to Scotland in their Six Nations opener, scoring all of Ireland's points - including the only try of the match.

Sexton had been out of action since a 45-minute shift in the European Champions Cup against Northampton Saints on December 7, and he has played just three times for Leinster in total this season.

Farrell told ITV: "He's not played for a long time, Johnny. It says a lot about a guy when he's passionate about being captain of his country in the Six Nations for the first time.

"He's trained with us for the last 10 days and that's the only real time he's been involved with team rugby, and he goes out and puts a performance in like that. He was outstanding, for me."

Sexton's team-mates did not look quite so convincing in a match that ended following a nervy stand in front of the Ireland try line, but Farrell was delighted with the team's spirit.

"There's always going to be things to work on, things we're trying to implement that are going to take time," he said. "Some of them were good, some of them were bad.

"Decision-making was up and down at times. I thought we looked quite fluent at times, but sometimes we got a little carried away with our decision-making. It's a start.

"But we asked the players all week to make sure they stand for something, and boy did they stand for a bit of grit.

"They were under the pressure in the first half on their own line quite a few times. And then you culminate that with what the last five minutes said about the team, I think it's there for all to see really."

Caelan Doris will make his Ireland debut when Andy Farrell's side open their Six Nations campaign against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

The Leinster number eight will play from the start, meaning CJ Stander switches to blindside flanker and former Lions captain Peter O'Mahony begins on the bench.

Leinster's Jordan Larmour has overcome a foot injury to beat Will Addison to the starting spot at full-back, with Jacob Stockdale and Andrew Conway the two wings for Ireland.

New captain Johnny Sexton starts at fly-half alongside Munster's Conor Murray, who is selected over John Cooney at scrum-half.

Rob Herring gets the start at hooker, with Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong picked as the props.

Leinster hooker Ronan Kelleher is the other player who is in line to make his debut, though he starts among the replacements.

Ireland finished third behind Wales and England in last year's Six Nations before suffering a humbling defeat to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, meaning a disappointing end to a highly successful era under Joe Schmidt.
 

Ireland XV to play Scotland: Jordan Larmour, Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale, Johnny Sexton (c), Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Peter O'Mahony, John Cooney, Ross Byrne, Robbie Henshaw.

Captain Johnny Sexton and wing Jordan Larmour are expected to be fit for Ireland's opening game of the Six Nations against Scotland.

Sexton has not featured since early last month due to a knee injury but hopes to play a full part in training on Thursday.

The fly-half is optimistic he will be ready to lead his country when they take on Scotland at the Aviva Stadium a week on Saturday, having been named as skipper for the tournament by new head coach Andy Farrell.

"Everything's been going to plan, so hopefully I'll take a full part in training tomorrow," said Sexton. 

"I've had no setbacks, once everything goes smoothly in training I'll be available for selection. I think everyone wants to be captain, it's an honour that I was asked to do it. 

"Obviously it's a campaign by campaign thing at the moment [being skipper], so we'll see how it goes over the next eight weeks."

Larmour damaged his foot in Leinster's European Champions Cup victory over Benetton last weekend, but Farrell is hopeful the flyer will be available for the opening weekend of the Six Nations.

Farrell said: "We met up yesterday and had a bit of a walk-through so he was able to partake in that. We'll take it day by day, it's not serious but we'll see how it goes.

"Obviously there're some new guys who are going to freshen things up, but it's not just about that, it's a matter of picking people in form."

Leinster have dismissed the suggestion Johnny Sexton could leave at the end of the season for a return to the Top 14.

Reports in France have claimed Top 14 leaders Lyon are hoping to bring former Racing 92 fly-half Sexton in to replace Jonathan Wisniewski, who is said to be considering retirement.

However, Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster moved to put an end to the speculation on Monday.

"There is certainly nothing from our end," said Lancaster.

"Johnny is contracted to Leinster and Ireland until 2021, so the only conversation I have had with Johnny is how can he get better, how he can help Leinster get better and how can he play for Ireland

"I can't see any merit in that [moving]."

Sexton is sidelined with a knee injury and Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said last week he is unlikely to return to action until the start of Ireland's Six Nations campaign.

Leinster became the first side to qualify for the European Champions Cup quarter-finals by defeating Northampton Saints 50-21 in Dublin on Saturday.

Johnny Sexton faces a battle to be fit for Ireland's Six Nations opener against Scotland. 

The fly-half suffered a knee injury during Leinster's European Champions Cup victory over Northampton Saints at Franklin's Gardens last weekend.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen is unsure how long his captain will be sidelined but is hopeful he will be ready to face Scotland at the Aviva Stadium in Andy Farrell's first game in charge on February 1.

"You would love if he was back [to play for Leinster before the Six Nations], but it's probably more realistic for Ireland," Cullen said.

"He's seeing somebody in the UK and he'll go back there just to get an update in a couple of weeks.

"He's working hard to try and get himself back as quickly as possible, but he won't be a million miles away [for the start of the Six Nations] hopefully."

Scott Fardy will skipper Leinster in the absence of Sexton in the return fixture against Northampton in Dublin on Saturday.

The Pro14 champions, runners-up in Europe's premier club competition last season, are top of Pool 1 with three wins out of three.

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