Six Nations

New Zealand-born Lowe set for Ireland debut as Sexton wins 100th Test cap

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Johnny Sexton (Getty Images)
Johnny Sexton (Getty Images)

New Zealand-born James Lowe will make his Test debut for Ireland just weeks after becoming eligible in Friday's Autumn Nations Cup opener with Wales.

The 28-year-old winger, who qualified through the three-year residency rule, earns his spot after a series of impressive performances for Pro14 champions Leinster.

He is joined in the starting line-up by fellow New Zealander Jamison Gibson-Park, who gets his first start but third cap, having come on as a replacement in recent Six Nations matches against Italy and France.

Jamison-Park will team up with Ireland captain and Leinster team-mate Johnny Sexton, who makes his 100th Test appearance -- his 94th for Ireland. He has six Test caps for the British and Irish Lions.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell said if Lowe acclimatises to the step up to Test rugby he will add an enormous amount to his side in attack especially.

"He brings an extra dimension on how we want to play," said on Tuesday Farrell at his press conference after naming the side.

"The way he has played for Leinster in the Pro14 hopefully he brings the same elements.

"A good performance from him brings another facet to our game and will be very important in taking us forward."

Farrell has blooded several fresh faces since he was promoted from assistant coach to the top job when Joe Schmidt stepped down after a highly successful tenure following last year's Rugby World Cup.

The Englishman said nothing should be read into Gibson-Park for instance starting instead of Sexton's long-time half-back partner Conor Murray.

"Jamison gets the opportunity to see if he can handle a full game having done pretty well coming on from the bench," said Farrell.

"We have been very impressed with what we have seen so far. No they (Murray included) have not been dropped.

"Other guys have been waiting for their chance and we want to see if they can grab it with both hands.

"We have trust enough in those who we have picked for the match to be up to this level."

Farrell has retained his faith in full-back Jacob Stockdale despite the 24-year-old Ulster star coming in for a lot of flak after the French defeat.

Stockdale has converted to full-back from the wing in a bid to replace the iconic Rob Kearney, who recently retired from Test rugby.

"I am not necessarily putting Jacob into the category of a player we are giving another chance to," said Farrell.

"Each individual is different and you treat them differently.

"Only a couple of games ago he (Stockdale) was being treated as the answer to Rob's retirement.

"There are a couple of things he had to put right from the France game but he is an important player for us."

Ireland are looking to bounce back from their defeat by les Bleus, which ended their hopes of the Six Nations title, while Wales arrive having lost their past five Tests.

Teams

15 Jacob Stockdale; 14 Hugo Keenan, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Chris Farrell, 11 James Lowe; 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Jamison Gibson-Park; 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O'Mahony; 5 James Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson; 3 Andrew Porter, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 1 Cian Healy

Substitutes: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Will Connors, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Keith Earls.

Coach: Andy Farrell (ENG)

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