Ireland recall ‘world-class’ Hugo Keenan in only change for England clash

Keenan is back after missing the win over Wales through injury but lock James Ryan has been ruled out of the rest of the Six Nations

Ed Elliot
Thursday 07 March 2024 14:35 GMT
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Hugo Keenan is back in the Ireland side to face England
Hugo Keenan is back in the Ireland side to face England (Getty Images)

Ireland have recalled “world-class” Hugo Keenan for Saturday’s clash with England but will be without lock James Ryan for the remainder of the Six Nations.

Fit-again full back Keenan replaces Ciaran Frawley in the only change to Andy Farrell’s starting XV after overcoming the knee issue which caused him to miss the 31-7 round-three win over Wales.

Lock Ryan, who has been reduced to a peripheral role during the championship, suffered a “freak” bicep injury in training on Wednesday and will sit out the trip to Twickenham, in addition to next week’s finale against Scotland.

“I think it would be a boost for any side in world rugby,” head coach Farrell said of the return of Keenan. “He’s a world-class full-back.

“It’s testament to him and it’s no shock to us that he’s been able to get himself back to this position to be involved this weekend as he’s been unbelievably diligent over the last few weeks to make that happen.”

Ulster second row Iain Henderson has recovered from a dislocated toe to take Ryan’s place on a bench which once again includes a six-two split of forwards and backs.

Ryan was strong contender to succeed Johnny Sexton as Ireland captain following the World Cup but the emergence of Leinster team-mate Joe McCarthy has limited him to just one start during this year’s tournament.

“He got injured yesterday in training, just a freak accident really, just a reaction, reaching out for a tackle that was non-contact and he’s injured his bicep,” Farrell said of Ryan.

“He won’t be available for the remainder of this Six Nations.”

James Ryan will miss the remainder of the Six Nations with a bicep injury
James Ryan will miss the remainder of the Six Nations with a bicep injury (Getty Images)

Prop Finlay Bealham and the versatile Frawley join Henderson among the replacements, with Oli Jager, who has a knee problem, and centre Stuart McCloskey dropping out of the matchday 23.

Garry Ringrose is fit following a shoulder injury but must wait for his first international appearance since the World Cup due to the impressive form of midfield pair Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki.

Reigning champions Ireland, who are chasing successive grand slams on the back of bonus-point wins over France, Italy and Wales, could retain their title with a game to spare with victory in south-west London.

Steve Borthwick’s hosts were two minutes away from reaching the World Cup final in October but have attracted criticism for some underwhelming performances.

Englishman Farrell is braced for “one hell of a battle” against “unbelievably dangerous” opponents seeking to respond to Calcutta Cup defeat to Scotland.

“I don’t get involved with the criticism at all,” he said of England. “I look at the individuals the way that they’re playing, the coaching staff that they got, the plan that they’ve got, a fantastic side that is going to be preparing to give it everything they’ve got at the weekend.

“That makes them unbelievably dangerous, we just prepare for them to be at their best and if that’s the case it’s going to be one hell of a battle.

“If they’re at their best, you expect them to be as hard as anyone in world rugby to beat.”

Ireland team to face England:

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster - 38 caps)

14. Calvin Nash (Munster - 4 caps)

13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster - 70 caps)

12. Bundee Aki (Connacht - 54 caps)

11. James Lowe (Leinster - 29 caps)

10. Jack Crowley (Munster - 12 caps)

9. Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster - 33 caps)

1. Andrew Porter (Leinster - 62 caps)

2. Dan Sheehan (Leinster - 24 caps)

3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster - 74 caps)

4. Joe McCarthy (Leinster - 8 caps)

5. Tadhg Beirne (Munster - 48 caps)

6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster - 103 caps) - captain

7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster - 60 caps)

8. Caelan Doris (Leinster - 39 caps)

Replacements:

16. Ronan Kelleher (Leinster - 29 caps)

17. Cian Healy (Leinster - 127 caps)

18. Finlay Bealham (Connacht - 38 caps)

19. Iain Henderson (Ulster - 80 caps)

20. Ryan Baird (Leinster - 18 caps)

21. Jack Conan (Leinster - 44 caps)

22. Conor Murray (Munster - 114 caps)

23. Ciaran Frawley (Leinster - 3 caps)

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