Farrell hands Six Nations debut to Ireland wing Lowe

·2-min read
Ireland wing James Lowe is set for his Six Nations debut

New Zealand-born wing James Lowe is set to start for Ireland against Wales on Sunday as Andy Farrell's men seek to end an eight-year wait for a Six Nations win in Cardiff.

The 28-year-old Lowe impressed in the Autumn Nations Cup but was then sidelined with a groin injury, only returning to training last month.

He has been preferred to his Leinster team-mate Jordan Larmour, who missed the Nations Cup due to injury and finds himself on the replacements' bench.

Farrell, speaking after the team was announced on Friday, said Lowe should not be seen as a surprise pick.

"He is not in our eyes," said the Ireland head coach. "He is a great player and right for this game.

"He has been in great form and Jordan too has not played much rugby."

Johnny Sexton, embarking on his 12th Six Nations campaign, will skipper the side as they bid to win their first Six Nations match in the Welsh capital since 2013.

Fly-half Sexton is one of five players from that team to be involved in Sunday's match.

His half-back partner, Conor Murray, is another of them, along with prop Cian Healy, who makes his 50th Six Nations appearance.

Farrell said that even though many pundits have made Ireland favourites to end that poor run, he and the team would not be taking Wales for granted.

The Irish beat Wales twice last year as the Welsh struggled to adapt to new coach Wayne Pivac and went from 2019 Six Nations Grand Slam winners to finishing second from bottom.

But Farrell said he did not believe "for one second" that Wales were no longer the force they were.

"Our boys are very familiar with them," he said. "We know how good they are, especially when under pressure.

"It is a huge game for both teams and it will be a war of attrition."

Hugo Keenan gets a chance to impress at full-back with Jacob Stockdale out injured.

British and Irish Lions prop Tadhg Furlong is named on the bench despite not having played rugby since Ireland's defeat by England last February.

Billy Burns appears to be the favoured successor to Sexton as the England-born Ulster fly-half is preferred to Ross Byrne on the bench.

"We (coaching staff) liked what we saw in training," said Farrell.

"We put them under tremendous pressure and I thought Billy would give us some dynamism off the bench."

Team (15-1):

Hugo Keenan; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (capt), Conor Murray; CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Peter O'Mahony; James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne; Andrew Porter, Rob Herring, Cian Healy

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Will Connors, Jamison Gibson Park, Billy Burns, Jordan Larmour

Coach: Andy Farrell (ENG)