D’Arcy says Ireland’s underdog tag is long gone, Henshaw to start at 15

Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

Manchester United dropped the first points of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure as they drew 2-2 with Burnley at Old Trafford. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty

Manchester United dropped the first points of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure as they drew 2-2 with Burnley at Old Trafford. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty

Robbie Henshaw looks set to start at fullback for Ireland in Saturday’s Six Nations opener against England in Dublin. Henshaw has won all but one of his 36 caps at centre, but a wealth of options in midfield - coupled with Joe Schmidt’s desire to get as many in-form players onto the pitch as possible - means he is likely to wear the 15 jersey at the Aviva Stadium. With Henshaw at fullback, Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose are Schmidt’s probable 12-13 partnership. The Championship kicks off on Friday night with Wales travelling to play France. Warren Gatland will announce his XV for the Stade de France at 11.0am this morning, with Jacques Brunel revealing his side at 9.0am. Italy meanwhile take on Scotland on Saturday - you can read our profile of Conor O’Shea’s side HERE.

In his column this morning Gordon D’Arcy looks ahead to the Six Nations and says Ireland’s status as underdogs is long gone: “The players moved past it several years ago. The rest of us caught up in November.” And he believes defeat to England in Saturday’s opener would not derail a side who thrive on operating in the toughest environments, he writes: “I don’t see any one result stalling the progress of this team . . . Ireland, now more than ever before, control their own destiny. From Johnny Sexton to Andrew Porter, this group of players crave pressure. It’s their primary motivation.” D’Arcy is one eight pundits who have made six predictions for the 2019 tournament - you can read their thoughts HERE.

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