Leinster Rugby’s Ross Byrne, who has tallied 32 points in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup, makes his first Six Nations start for Ireland as they head to Italy on Saturday.
The fly-half is in for injured clubmate Johnny Sexton in the side, as he was for much of Leinster’s Heineken Champions Cup pool stage campaign, starting all four of their games as they stormed to the top of Pool A and a home Round of 16 clash with Ulster Rugby on April 1.
Several Heineken Champions Cup players come into the Ireland team as head coach Andy Farrell makes a series of tweaks following their success over France two weeks ago.
2023 FINAL KICK OFF TIME CONFIRMED 🚨
The battle for this year's #HeinekenChampionsCup crown will get underway in exactly 3 months at 16:45 BST in Dublin 🤩
The Aviva is waiting, and if it's anything like last year's semi-final we're in for a treat ➡️ https://t.co/gXM9ZSTve4 pic.twitter.com/KMWw5z572E
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) February 20, 2023
Munster Rugby’s Craig Casey completes the half-back pairing – he too makes his first Six Nations start – while hooker Ronan Kelleher and No.8 Jack Conan are the other Leinster names brought in.
The latter alteration to an all-Leinster back row sees Caelan Doris shift to blindside flanker, with fellow EPCR Player of the Year nominee Josh van der Flier continuing at openside flanker.
Leinster centre Garry Ringrose is a third EPCR Player of the Year nominee retained for his 50th Ireland appearance, with prop Andrew Porter, lock James Ryan – who takes over the captaincy from Sexton – wing James Lowe and full-back Hugo Keenan the EPCR heavyweights’ other representatives.
Ulster Rugby’s Iain Henderson makes his first Ireland start since last year’s Six Nations as he comes in at lock.