Jacob Stockdale one of six new faces in Ireland team

Andy Farrell names his Irish team for the final match of the 2021 Six Nations

Six Nations: Ireland v England

Kick-off: 4.45pm, Saturday. Venue: Aviva Stadium. How to follow: The Irish Times liveblog will begin at 4.15pm. On TV: Live on Virgin Media One and ITV.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has made nine positional changes to face England on Saturday at the Aviva stadium.

Injury has ruled Will Connors (knee), Garry Ringrose (ankle) and James Ryan (concussion) out of this final Six Nations fixture as Robbie Henshaw moves to outside centre, Tadhg Beirne switches into the secondrow and Josh van der Flier starts at openside.


Bundee Aki is recalled - having been overlooked for the entire Six Nations - while the backrow gets a complete makeover with Jack Conan at number eight and CJ Stander moving to blindside for his 51st and final Ireland cap. Peter O'Mahony, having served a three match suspension for the red card against Wales, returns to the bench.

Stander rejected an IRFU contract extension to return to his family in South Africa, ideally after he features in the Lions series against the Springboks this summer, before retiring from “all forms of rugby.”

Farrell was informed of the decision "a few weeks ago" but Ireland captain Johnny Sexton was shocked to be told on Monday before Stander spoke to the entire squad. O'Mahony described Stander's decision to retire as "noble."

“We have known for a few weeks,” said Farrell. “He made his decision six, seven weeks ago and he is in a great mood. I am absolutely made up for him, to be honest. He is very content with his decision. Very happy. When you put all that into context, we are happy for him as well. He is in great spirits, because he has known for some time, he knew this would be his last Six Nations.

“It is what it is. CJ deserves the right to speak to the players and wants to tell them first hand rather than second hand. He doesn’t want to leave an Ireland camp with the news he already knows and not have the chance to address the group.

“If we need any more emotion to go into an England game we are in the wrong place anyway.”

Farrell’s changes will come under scrutiny if Ireland’s losing streak against England is stretched to five matches in two years.

James Lowe's poor defence against Scotland is punished as Jacob Stockdale returns to the left wing having recovered from a hamstring injury. Aki gets the nod ahead of Munster's Chris Farrell while Jordan Larmour continues to cover several backline positions from the replacements.

Billy Burns continues to understudy for Sexton although it is highly unlikely the Ulster outhalf will see any game time at the Aviva stadium, unless the Ireland captain suffers a knock.

Interestingly, Conor Murray has proved his fitness to regain the number nine jersey from Jamison Gibson-Park. Conor is a big game player.

"With James, there are a few things we have talked about over the Six Nations. He is very young in terms of international experience. We are looking forward to him progressing in the big games back at Leinster."

Beirne's move to lock is another interesting decision after he was named man of the match at flanker in Edinburgh. Also, Ryan Baird can't break into the starting XV despite an outstanding cameo that saved Ireland from a draw at Murrayfield.

IRELAND: Hugo Keenan; Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton (capt), Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Rob Herring, Tadhg Furlong; Iain Henderson, Tadhg Beirne; CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Rónan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, Peter O'Mahony, Jamison Gibson-Park, Billy Burns, Jordan Larmour.