Ireland and England name their teams; Tony Kelly’s one match ban confirmed
Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team
The Irish team during a training session at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Joe Schmidt named his Irish XV yesterday for this weekend’s Six Nations opener against England at the Aviva. The Irish head coach went with the same team that beat New Zealand in Dublin last year, with Robbie Henshaw coming in at fullback and a fit again Conor Murray returning to scrumhalf. There’s no place among the replacements for either Jack McGrath or Rob Kearney. In Gerry Thornley’s team news article this morning he explains: “in all bar three of the last 25 years though, the ultimate champions won on the opening weekend.” England have named Henry Slade and Manu Tuilagi together in the centre for the first time - Tuilagi starting in his first Six Nations game in more than four years. The powerful centre presents a clear and present danger to Ireland’s hopes. Liam Toland’s column is looking at the small margins that could decide things on Saturday: “it’s Eddie Jones’s 80 per cent versus Schmidt’s 74 per cent win ratio but regardless of any other statistic; keep England’s recycle above five seconds and Ireland will win.”
Clare’s Tony Kelly has had his one-match suspension confirmed by the GAA’s Central Hearings Committee - it’s not yet clear whether Clare will take the matter to the Central Appeals Committe. Kelly was dismissed for a head-high challenge on Tipperary’s Pádraic Maher last weekend - seen by many viewers and pundits as just a clumsy coming together - but enough for referee Colm Lyons to flash the red card following new directives in 2019 for officials to clamp down on contact around the head.