Ross Byrne and Craig Casey named in Ireland starting line-up for Six Nations clash with Italy

Ross Byrne and Craig Casey will make their first Six Nations starts in Ireland’s clash with Italy on Saturday.

yrne will don the Ireland No 10 jersey for the first time since November 2020 as he makes the first championship start of his career in Rome.

The IRFU confirmed that Sexton will sit out the game, with James Ryan named as captain in his absence, and the veteran out-half’s absence opens the door for his Leinster teammate.

Munster scrum-half Casey will make his first Six Nations start alongside Byrne at the half-back.

The Leinster ten has made a remarkable international comeback since being called up at the 11th hour to face Australia last autumn.

He kicked the winning penalty and that kick propelled him back into the Six Nations squad ahead of Joey Carbery.

Byrne came off the bench against Wales and France in impressive style and has earned a chance to lead the backline as Ireland look to make it three from three in their bid to win a first title since 2018.

And Byrne will join Casey, who also starred off the bench against France.

The 23-year-old has edged ahead of Conor Murray at club level and now gets a big chance to impress on just his second start for Ireland and his first since he played against the United States in July 2021.

Iain Henderson starts in the second-row alongside Ryan in place of the injured Tadhg Beirne, with Ryan Baird coming on to the bench where Jack Crowley will provide cover for Byrne.

There is also another change in the back-row, with Jack Conan recalled at No 8, with Caelan Doris switching to blindside and Peter O’Mahony among the replacements.

Rónan Kelleher has been promoted to the starting hooker’s slot with Dan Sheehan coming on to the bench after missing the France game through injury.

Perhaps the biggest call for Farrell is at inside centre where Bundee Aki gets the nod ahead of Stuart McCloskey after impressing off the bench in rounds one and two.

Ireland team to face Italy: H Keenan; M Hansen, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Lowe; R Byrne, C Casey; A Porter, R Kelleher, F Bealham; I Henderson, J Ryan (capt); C Doris, J van der Flier, J Conan.

Replacements: D Sheehan, D Kilcoyne, T O’Toole, R Baird, P O’Mahony, C Murray, J Crowley, S McCloskey.


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