Byrne gets Ireland nod ahead of Burns for England clash

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Andy Farrell
Andy Farrell
Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Ross Byrne replaces injured Ireland captain Johnny Sexton at flyhalf in the starting line-up for their Autumn Nations Cup match with England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Byrne will be partnered at half-back by his Leinster team-mate Jamison Gibson-Park -- who keeps the vastly-experienced scrumhalf Conor Murray on the bench.

It is the first time neither Murray nor Sexton will start against England for nine years.

The last time neither started was in August 2011, when the half-back pairing was scrumhalf Eoin Reddan and Ronan O'Gara at flyhalf.

At least one of Sexton and Murray have played in all 10 Tests since.

The 25-year-old Byrne is preferred to Billy Burns, who impressed when he came on for his debut replacing Sexton in the first-half of the 32-9 victory over Wales last Friday.

However, Byrne already has eight caps to his credit and got the better of Burns when Leinster beat Ulster in September's Pro14 final.

"Like with others how do you find out about players unless you give them a chance on the big occasion," said head coach Andy Farrell.

"He has played big games for Leinster and this is his chance to go to Twickenham and show what he has got."

Sexton and England opposite number Owen Farrell -- the son of the Ireland head coach -- have had some tetchy moments in past encounters.

However, Farrell senior says Byrne is a very different player temperamentally compared to Sexton.

"I have no concerns whatsoever about Ross and his temperament," said Farrell.

"He will play his game and he will be his own guy. His style is cool, calm and collected."

New Zealand-born Gibson-Park retains the starting spot after a good performance on his first start against the Welsh.

It is a rare moment in matches against top level opposition in the past decade that neither Sexton nor Murray has started.

Farrell, though, has made much of it being a new group since he took over from Joe Schmidt after last year's World Cup.

"This is a big chance to see where we are on our journey," said Farrell.

"There is a bit of disparity between the two pairings experience wise.

"However, to find out about the group we have got to give people a chance on the big stage."

Two other New Zealand-born players line-up in the backs with Bundee Aki returning in the centres due to the injury to Robbie Henshaw and livewire wing James Lowe also starts.

Hugo Keenan retains the starting spot at fullback even though Jacob Stockdale has recovered from the calf injury that forced him to withdraw from the clash with the Welsh.

James Ryan captains the side in the absence of Sexton and is partnered in the second row by Quinn Roux, who scored one of Ireland's two tries in the victory over Wales.

Since Ireland clinched the Grand Slam at Twickenham in 2018 they have fared badly against Eddie Jones's side -- their only defeat in their last 20 home Tests coming last year.

They have also been beaten twice at Twickenham with the aggregate score from the last three meetings 113-47 and been outscored 15 tries to six.

Farrell said he hoped this game would have a more positive outcome but he is not a soothsayer.

"I can't make promises, I have not got a crystal ball," said the 45-year-old Englishman.

"What I do know is that this is a different group and it will be a different game at the weekend with new combinations.

"They have trained well and prepared well but how it transpires let us wait and see."



15 Hugo Keenan; 14 Keith Earls, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe; 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park; 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Peter O'Mahony, 6 CJ Stander; 5 James Ryan (captain), 4 Quinn Roux; 3 Andrew Porter, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 1 Cian Healy

Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Will Connors, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Jacob Stockdale

Coach: Andy Farrell (ENG)



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