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Six Nations: Ireland's Connors, Keenan make debuts in much-changed team to face Italy

Leinster's Will Connors will make his Ireland debut against Italy in the Six Nations clash this weekend. Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Will Connors and Hugo Keenan have been handed Ireland debuts as coach Andy Farrell on Wednesday included them in the starting lineup for Saturday's Six Nations clash against Italy at the Aviva Stadium.

Two other uncapped players -- hooker Ed Byrne and Jamison Gibson-Park -- were named among the replacements in a much-changed Ireland line-up from the one that lost to England in February before play was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With Jordan Larmour out due to a dislocated shoulder, Jacob Stockdale switches to fullback and Keenan gets a start on the left wing while his Leinster team mate Connors packs down on the side of the scrum.

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. Gibson-Park has qualified to play for Ireland through residency.

Regular starters Tadhg Furlong and Iain Henderson were ruled out through injury and suspension, which means Andrew Porter starts at tight-head prop with Cian Healy on the other side.

Ireland still have a chance to win the Six Nations and follow Saturday's meeting with Italy with their final match of this year's delayed competition against France in Paris on Oct. 31.

Ireland squad

Starting XV:

Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Hugo Keenan, Jonathan Sexton (captain), Conor Murray, CJ Stander, Will Connors, Caelan Doris, James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Andrew Porter, Rob Herring, Cian Healy.

Replacements:

Dave Heffernan, Ed Byrne, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Peter O'Mahony, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Robbie Henshaw.