Cian Prendergast to make first Test start at number eight against England

Andy Farrell has recalled the bulk of the team which clinched Six Nations glory against England.

Ed Elliot
Thursday 17 August 2023 14:52 BST
Connacht’s Cian Prendergast, with ball in hand, will make his first Test start for Ireland (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)
Connacht’s Cian Prendergast, with ball in hand, will make his first Test start for Ireland (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA) (PA Archive)

Ireland back-rower Cian Prendergast will make his first Test start in Saturday’s World Cup warm-up clash with England in Dublin.

The Connacht player, who has won two caps as a replacement, has been selected at number eight, with the influential Caelan Doris providing back-up from the bench.

Andy Farrell has recalled 11 of the team which clinched Six Nations Grand Slam glory against Steve Borthwick’s men in March.

Centre Garry Ringrose and lock Tadhg Beirne, who were both injured for that 29-16 win, and fly-half Ross Byrne join Prendergast in coming in to a strong starting XV.

Munster wing Keith Earls is poised to win his 100th cap from the bench.

Prendergast came on in the first half of Ireland’s 33-17 win over Italy on August 5 in place of the injured Jack Conan.

With Conan still sidelined by a foot issue, the 23-year-old is given a major opportunity to provide competition for key man Doris, who was named man of the match following two tries against the Azzurri.

Head coach Farrell has completely changed the experimental side which began that match.

In the continued absence of suspended captain Johnny Sexton, Leinster team-mate Byrne has another chance to stake his claim for the number 10 jersey.

The 28-year-old – the most experienced out-half available to Farrell – will make only the fourth international start of his career, two of which were Twickenham defeats to England.

He will be partnered by scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, with Jack Crowley, who impressed at fly-half against Italy, among the replacements.

Farrell has selected his first-choice front row of Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong, with skipper James Ryan and Beirne in the lock positions and reigning world player of the year Josh Van Der Flier and Peter O’Mahony either side of rookie Prendergast.

Ringrose is partnered in midfield by Bundee Aki. Wings Mack Hansen and James Lowe and full-back Hugo Keenan return in a familiar back three.

Veteran Earls, who made his debut against Canada in November 2008, is set to become the ninth Irishman to reach a century of caps following Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, Cian Healy, Rory Best, Sexton, Paul O’Connell, John Hayes and Conor Murray.

Scrum-half Murray, hooker Rob Herring, props Jeremy Loughman and Finlay Bealham and second row Joe McCarthy complete the bench.

Farrell on Wednesday released Kieran Treadwell, Caolin Blade, Gavin Coombes, Calvin Nash and Jamie Osborne from his squad.

The Englishman, who currently has 38 players at his disposal, will name his final 33-man selection for France on August 28.

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