Keenan and Connors handed Ireland debuts in Six Nations clash with Italy

Tanya Simon
October 23, 2020

Two further Leinster players, in uncapped prop Ed Byrne and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, are also in line for their Test debuts off the bench at the Aviva Stadium.

Although Ireland overcame Scotland and Wales before that loss, over the course of the succeeding months, you would hope Farrell will have taken note of the way they were bullied by England in February and perhaps at least thought about some of the decisions that he may need to take going forward. Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 26 caps11.

"We've had quite a few sessions under our belt now so we have looked at different combinations and we've been very impressed with Jacob", he explained. He is learning to adapt and get stronger there.

"It's a bit of a cliché, but we have Italy this week so we have to put in a good performance to win that game and come away with five points, which would put us in with a shot come the end of the tournament".

"It has been seamless for both of them", Farrell continued.

"We think he's got all the attributes to push forward in that position, and of course he's got other elements of his game that he needs to keep pushing forward".

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell

Farrell kept his Ireland players guessing on his team selection until Wednesday morning, revealing he wants to keep his players' focus as he bids to forge a new era.

The 28-year-old former Maori All Black Gibson-Park is likely to come on as a replacement scrumhalf although the established half back pair of captain Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray remains in place.

"Keeping people on their toes is the reason for the selection today".

"Jamison, we all know by watching him play that he is a calming influence".

"No one across Irish Rugby in the women's game is actually able to pull on a jersey and play right now and yet here we are already privileged to represent our country and be one of the only teams actually playing in these times".

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