Sexton to make Ireland return in World Cup opener

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton returns to action after six-month absence due to groin injury and suspension as he starts World Cup opener against Romania… as Andy Farrell names strong squad for their Bordeaux bow

  • Ireland take on Romania in their first Pool B match in Bordeaux on Saturday
  • Sexton will win his 114th cap as he makes long-awaited return to the Irish side
  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results

Andy Farrell declared it’s time for business as he named a strong Irish team for their World Cup opener against minnows Romania on Saturday.

Thousands of Irish fans are already flooding into Bordeaux ahead of the game, while a week at their base in Tours has seen thousands of locals greet the No1-ranked team in the world.

But the good vibes are now giving way to the cold business of winning, with Ireland expected to trounce the Romanians as they prepare for the daunting challenge of South Africa in a fortnight’s time, and Scotland two weeks later.

‘It’s business, that’s where we’re at,’ he said from the team’s base in central Bordeaux.

‘It’s why experience within your group is a good thing as well. When you get to these tournaments and the euphoria around it, if you’re a young, inexperienced player you can get lost in the carnival atmosphere.’

Andy Farrell said it is time for business for Ireland ahead of their clash with Romania on Saturday

Johnny Sexton has been absent for six months but will make his return in Ireland’s World Cup opener

That is one pitfall that should be avoided given the number of veterans he has included in a starting 15 that is close to his strongest.

Alongside him yesterday sat captain Johnny Sexton, who will win his 114th Test cap as he comes back from six months out, following injury and suspension.

Keith Earls wins his 101st cap on the right wing, taking the place of Mack Hansen in Farrell’s strongest back three. He clarified that Hansen was fit, and it’s clear that this team is picked with one eye on Tonga on Saturday week, with Robbie Henshaw and Josh van der Flier starting among the replacements here.

Peter O’Mahony edges closer to becoming Ireland’s next centurion as he wins his 97th cap and at the other end of the experience spectrum, Joe McCarthy wins his fourth cap in the second row, alongside his Leinster team-mate James Ryan.

Rob Herring starts at hooker, with Ronan Kelleher on the bench as he completes his recovery from a hamstring injury.

Sexton was coy about Ireland’s wider ambitions, in contrast to Farrell, who has made plain his intent is to guide Ireland to World Cup victory.

‘We do know what’s ahead in terms of the group that we’re in,’ said Sexton, ‘it’s incredibly tough.’

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