No Johnny Sexton and other Ireland team changes they should make for Tonga 3 weeks ago

No Johnny Sexton and other Ireland team changes they should make for Tonga

"Hopefully I'm better for the game and hopefully I can improve my performance for Tonga"

Andy Farrell's men had long finished their 82-8 destruction of Romania, on Saturday, when Johnny Sexton flung his hat in for the Ireland team to face Tonga.

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Sexton had the World Cup opener against Romania circled for well over a month, after his three-month disciplinary ban, and he played 65 impressive minutes in sweltering 35 degree heat, in Bordeaux. He wants more minutes against Tonga, this Saturday, but we are not so sure.

Ireland team Posing for an Ireland team photo, at at Stade Vallée du Cher, were Jack Conan, Garry Ringrose, captain Jonathan Sexton, Peter O’Mahony and Tadhg Furlong. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)
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Big calls for next Ireland team announcement

Andy Farrell will have had an Ireland team in mind for his opening three games of the World Cup. 12 of the players that started against England in the second RWC warm-up were in the starting line-up against Romania.

This weekend, in Nantes, we should see several of the Ireland players that got starts against Samoa in the final warm-up match. Robbie Henshaw was not risked after feeling a tender hamstring in last Friday's captain's run, but both Farrell and assistant coach Simon Easterby insist he is in contention for Tonga.

The Ireland team we have listed below is the starting XV we feel can do a number against Tonga, with several frontliners on the bench. We would have Sexton on the bench, and would start Jack Crowley, who had two fine warm-up games and came off the bench against Romania. Personally, we would leave Sexton out of the matchday 23 entirely, but if the captain feels he needs more minutes, he can have the place of Ross Byrne on the replacements bench.

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Elsewhere, Ryan Baird and Josh van der Flier start in the back row. If Jack Conan is able to go from the start, put him at No.8. If he is still being eased back, Caelan Doris may have to lace up again. Dave Kilcoyne are others who have been held back by injuries. Ireland have more cover in the front row, so we would put both on the bench, along with Tadhg Furlong.

It would be interesting to see if Ireland would be tempted to go with a 6:2 split on their bench, knowing how physical Tonga could prove. That would allow Farrell to go with the versatile Tadhg Beirne, have that No.8 cover and even Peter O'Mahony to call on.

OUR IRELAND TEAM TO FACE TONGA

15. Jimmy O'Brien
14. Mack Hansen
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. Keith Earls
10. Jack Crowley
9. Conor Murray

1. Jeremy Loughman
2. Rónan Kelleher
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Joe McCarthy
5. Iain Henderson (captain)
6. Ryan Baird
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Caelan Doris/Jack Conan

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Ireland will officially name their team to face Tonga on Thursday afternoon.

BRIAN O'DRISCOLL ON FIRST CALL-UPS AND CAREER HIGHS:

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