Calvin Nash and Joe McCarthy in line for Six Nations debuts against France

By Sports Desk January 31, 2024

Munster wing Calvin Nash and Leinster lock Joe McCarthy will make their Guinness Six Nations debuts in Ireland’s championship opener against France but centre Garry Ringrose misses out due to a shoulder issue.

Jack Crowley has been selected at fly-half for Friday evening’s curtain-raiser in Marseille following the retirement of former captain Johnny Sexton after the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Andy Farrell’s starting XV, led by flanker Peter O’Mahony, shows just four changes from Ireland’s 28-24 quarter-final defeat to New Zealand on October 14, with Robbie Henshaw coming in for the sidelined Ringrose in the other alteration.

Twenty-six-year-old Nash, who won his only previous cap as a replacement in a 33-17 World Cup warm-up win over Italy last August, will line up on the right flank in place of the injured Mack Hansen.

McCarthy, 22, featured twice at the tournament in France and will partner Tadhg Beirne in the second row after being preferred to experienced duo James Ryan and Iain Henderson.

Ringrose was an option to switch positions and fill the void left by Connacht star Hansen but he has been ruled out by a bang on a shoulder.

The 29-year-old Leinster co-captain is expected to be back in contention for the round-two clash with Italy on February 11.

His absence sees Henshaw return to midfield, alongside 2023 World Rugby player of the year nominee Bundee Aki.

Munster number 10 Crowley, who has nine international caps, will make his full Six Nations debut to stake his claim as long-term successor to Sexton.

The 24-year-old’s only previous action in the championship was a three-minute cameo against Italy 12 months ago.

Ciaran Frawley, who – like Nash – won his one and only Test cap by coming on against the Azzurri last summer, will provide fly-half cover from the bench, while Harry Byrne – the younger brother of the injured Ross Byrne – must wait for his opportunity.

Title holders Ireland defeated France 32-19 in Dublin last February en route to dethroning their rivals as Grand Slam champions.

Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong continue in an unchanged front row, with fellow Leinster players Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris joining new skipper O’Mahony at the base of the pack.

Jamison Gibson-Park retains the scrum-half role ahead of Conor Murray, with James Lowe on the left wing and Hugo Keenan at full-back.

Veteran prop Cian Healy returns to the bench at Stade Velodrome after missing the World Cup with a calf injury.

The 36-year-old loosehead is joined by Ronan Kelleher, Finlay Bealham, Ryan, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Murray and Frawley.

Ireland team: H Keenan (Leinster); C Nash (Munster), R Henshaw (Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Lowe (Leinster); J Crowley (Munster), J Gibson-Park (Leinster); A Porter (Leinster), D Sheehan (Leinster), T Furlong (Leinster), J McCarthy (Leinster), T Beirne (Munster), P O’Mahony (Munster, capt), J van der Flier (Leinster), C Doris (Leinster).

Replacements: R Kelleher (Leinster), C Healy (Leinster), F Bealham (Connacht), J Ryan (Leinster), R Baird (Leinster), J Conan (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), C Frawley (Leinster).

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