Six Nations 2015: Ireland welcome back big names for French test

Five British & Lions could be back for the game

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Ireland could have five British & Irish Lions back for Saturday’s game with France in Dublin, with flanker Sean O’Brien close to contention after a hamstring injury in the warm-up to the win over Italy in Rome at the weekend ruled him out of a first Test appearance in more than a year.

Jonathan Sexton, Jamie Heaslip, Rory Best, Cian Healy and O’Brien could all come into an Ireland side which was less than convincing in claiming an opening 26-3 win on Saturday.

O’Brien was a late withdrawal from the starting XV, but an MRI scan on Sunday night confirmed that the forward had suffered only a minor hamstring strain and he is poised to train today, the Ireland team manager, Mick Kearney, said yesterday.

Sexton could displace Ian Keatley at fly-half at the Aviva Stadium after recovering from a blow to the head and No 8 Heaslip is likely to play following a shoulder injury.

Healy is available at prop after a torn hamstring, which required surgery last September, while Best is observing return-to-play protocols following concussion and should be back as hooker. Scrum-half Eoin Reddan (knee) and wing Dave Kearney (shoulder) are fit for selection.

O’Brien has not played for Ireland since the agonising late defeat to world champions New Zealand in November 2013, after two shoulder reconstruction surgeries.

Scrum-half Conor Murray knows the Six Nations holders Ireland must improve against a France side which opened with a 15-8 win over Scotland. He said: “The Italy game will not be good enough to beat France this weekend. We’ve got to up it. They’ve got a lot of talent in their team. [Wesley] Fofana and [Camille] Lopez can change the game in a moment.

“They can be really dangerous if you let them attack and leave them in space,” Murray added. “Against Scotland they won ugly and that’s the sign of a good team.”

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