Irish reinforced as Sexton returns for Aussie Test
Johnny Sexton returns along with several other regular first choice players to Ireland's starting line-up for Saturday's Autumn Series match with Australia at Lansdowne Road with the hosts seeking a record-equalling 12th successive home Test win.
Head coach Andy Farrell has been boosted by talismanic fly-half Sexton and other key players proving their fitness after they suffered knocks in the 19-16 win over world champions South Africa earlier this month.
Farrell hopes Sexton and fellow world player of the year nominee Josh van der Flier - along with James Ryan, Hugo Keenan and Andrew Porter - will add a bit of vim to a team that rarely imposed itself in the 35-17 win over Fiji last Saturday.
Keenan's return sees his Leinster team-mate Jimmy O'Brien moved to the wing -- Robert Baloucoune who started the previous two matches drops out of the matchday squad.
It is the versatile O'Brien's third position in as many matches having come on for his debut against South Africa in the centres -- when Stuart McCloskey was injured in the first-half -- and then played full-back against Fiji.
"He (O'Brien) has all the hallmarks of a great, composed international player," said Farrell at Thursday's press conference.
"Somebody who can do what he does in many different positions, he doesn't flap around panicking about moving positions.
"He's just being himself wherever he's picked. Those things are pretty important in any international squad."
Farrell has retained faith with McCloskey, who starts his third successive match and gets the nod ahead of Bundee Aki, who has returned from suspension.
"Stu has earned the right to go again," said Farrell.
"First game was a bit different and second game was a bit different again. And we are hoping to get a better performance against a different side in Australia and one that suits Stu as well."
The Irish will want to round off their year with victory and frank their status as the number one ranked team in the world.
The hosts previously won 12 consecutive home Tests between November 2016 and November 2018.
They meet a Wallabies side that is seeking their first win of the series and lands in Dublin off the back of an historic 28-27 defeat to Italy last weekend.
It is the first visit to Lansdowne Road for Australia since 2016 when the Irish prevailed 27-24.
Ireland also got the better of the Wallabies on a tour to Australia in 2018 winning the series 2-1.
Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Stuart McCloskey, Jimmy O'Brien; Johnny Sexton (capt), Jamison Gibson-Park; Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Peter O'Mahony; James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne; Tadhg Furlong, Dan Sheehan, Andrew Porter
Replacements: Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Joe McCarthy, Jack Conan, Craig Casey, Jack Crowley, Bundee Aki
Coach: Andy Farrell (ENG)
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