Jonathan Sexton to play fly-half for Ireland against England

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The Independent Online

Ireland have selected Jonathan Sexton at fly-half for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations finale against Grand Slam chasing England at Aviva Stadium.

Sexton endured a torrid afternoon in Saturday's 19-13 defeat by Wales after appearing as a 50th-minute substitute for Ronan O'Gara at the Millennium Stadium.

But coach Declan Kidney has decided to persevere with his controversial rotational policy at 10 by picking the Leinster half-back to face England.

O'Gara, who started the last two outings against Scotland and Wales, is demoted to the bench.

One other change in personnel has been made to the side subdued in Cardiff with Luke Fitzgerald losing his place at full-back.

Fitzgerald has struggled to make a successful transition from wing to the number 15 jersey and has paid the price by being omitted from the squad altogether.

Keith Earls switches to full-back with Andrew Trimble coming in to fill the vacancy on the left wing.

"If Luke has made any errors they're probably because he's trying too hard and he's been overstretching himself," said Kidney.

"Andrew has been knocking at the door for quite some time and has done well. Andrew was showing great form going into the Six Nations."

Eoin Reddan has been selected at scrum-half despite being concussed during the opening minute against Wales.

However, he requires a positive assessment from a neurologist before being given the green light to play.

With Tomas O'Leary ruled out because of an eye injury, coach Kidney's options at scrum-half are limited.

Peter Stringer, who replaced Reddan at the Millennium Stadium, continues on the bench but will be promoted to the starting line-up should his rival from Leinster fail to receive the all-clear.

Captain Brian O'Driscoll is the only survivor from the starting line-up thumped 42-6 by England in 2003, though Stringer, Paul O'Connell and O'Gara were on the bench that day.

However, two players remain from the 2001 showdown when England also arrived in Dublin looking for a Grand Slam only to be beaten 20-14 in O'Driscoll and David Wallace, with Stringer and O'Gara on the bench that day.

Ireland have established a fantastic record against England since 2003, winning six out of their seven meetings.

The sequence dates back to becoming the first team to beat the newly crowned World Cup winners in the 2004 Six Nations.

The only blemish is a 33-10 defeat at Twickenham in 2008, a match that proved to be Eddie O'Sullivan's last as Ireland coach before being removed.

A England victory at Lansdowne Road would see Ireland equal their worst Six Nations performance, also in 2008 when they finished fourth having registered just two victories.

It has been a poor championship for a side that went desperately close to losing to Italy and were in danger of squandering a commanding lead against Scotland.

However, preventing England from repeating their 2003 Grand Slam triumph would go some way to restoring morale with just four game remaining until the World Cup.

Ireland team to face England in the RBS 6 Nations Championship at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, on Saturday, March 19 (5pm kick off):

K Earls (Munster); T Bowe (Ospreys), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, capt), G D'Arcy (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster); J Sexton (Leinster), E Reddan (Leinster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster), S O'Brien (Leinster), D Wallace (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster).

Replacements: S Cronin (Connacht), T Court (Ulster), L Cullen (Leinster), D Leamy (Munster), P Stringer (Munster), R O'Gara (Munster), P Wallace (Ulster).