Johnny Sexton returns from injury for Ireland against Australia

Ireland round out their autumn programme against Australia on Saturday evening  (Getty Images)
Ireland round out their autumn programme against Australia on Saturday evening (Getty Images)

Skipper Johnny Sexton will return from injury as part of eight personnel changes to Ireland’s starting XV for Saturday evening’s autumn finale against Australia in Dublin.

Vice-captain James Ryan, prop Andrew Porter, flanker Josh Van Der Flier and full-back Hugo Keenan have also been recalled after overcoming fitness issues.

Head coach Andy Farrell has named arguably his strongest available team, with hooker Dan Sheehan, flanker Peter O’Mahony and centre Garry Ringrose the other players restored following last weekend’s underwhelming 35-17 win over Fiji.

Uncapped Leinster lock Joe McCarthy could make his debut from the bench.

Stuart McCloskey will partner Ringrose in midfield after retaining his spot at inside centre ahead of Bundee Aki, who has to be content with a place among the replacements following suspension.

Leinster back Jimmy O’Brien has been preferred to Robert Baloucoune and shifts to the left wing after starting at full-back last Saturday.

Canberra-born Mack Hansen switches flanks as direct replacement for Baloucoune on the right and will line up against his native country seeking to score a try for the third successive game.

Tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong, lock Tadhg Beirne, back-rower Caelan Doris and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park have also been retained.

Doris will revert to number eight with O’Mahony in at blindside.

Ireland are bidding to equal a national record of 12 successive home wins by signing off a stellar 2022 by securing a ninth victory from 11 Tests.

Sexton and Leinster team-mate Van Der Flier were this week shortlisted for world player of the year, while Hansen and Sheehan were nominated for the breakthrough award, with Farrell up for coach of the year.

Fly-half Sexton on Wednesday declared himself fit after suffering a dead leg against South Africa at the start of the month.

Jack Crowley, a Test debutant last weekend, will once again provide back up for the number 10 role as fellow Munster player Joey Carbery has returned to his province to undergo return to play protocols due to a head injury sustained in the challenge which resulted in a red card for Fiji flanker Albert Tuisue.

Aki, Crowley and McCarthy will be joined on the bench by Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Australia-born Finlay Bealham, Jack Conan and Craig Casey.