Tadhg Furlong ruled out for Ireland vs Wales in Six Nations opener; Stuart McCloskey at centre; Johnny Sexton fit to start | Rugby Union News

Ireland open 2023 Six Nations by travelling to Wales in Cardiff on Saturday (2.15pm); Skipper and playmaker Johnny Sexton fit to start; Stuart McCloskey starts over Bundee Aki at centre; Tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong ruled out due to an ankle injury, so Finlay Bealham starts

Last Updated: 02/02/23 1:05pm

Tadhg Furlong has been ruled out injured for Ireland's opening Six Nations clash vs Wales in Cardiff

Tadhg Furlong has been ruled out injured for Ireland’s opening Six Nations clash vs Wales in Cardiff

Tadhg Furlong has been ruled out of Ireland’s 2023 Six Nations opener vs Wales in Cardiff, in a major blow for Andy Farrell’s side.

Furlong, who has only played 36 minutes of rugby since the autumn internationals, has failed to recover from an ankle injury, leaving Connacht’s Finlay Bealham to start at tighthead prop.

Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey has been named to start, while skipper Johnny Sexton has been passed fit after a cheekbone fracture.

With Robbie Henshaw out due to a wrist injury, McCloskey has been selected ahead of Connacht’s Bundee Aki to start alongside Garry Ringrose in midfield, having featured for Ireland heavily in the autumn due to injuries.

Despite being a consistent performer for Ulster over a number of years, Saturday’s clash will surprisingly be 30-year-old McCloskey’s first Six Nations appearance since his debut vs England at Twickenham in 2016.

Elsewhere, the availability of Sexton and Furlong is a boost for head coach Andy Farrell, albeit the fly-half and tighthead have played a distinct lack of minutes since November.

Hooker Ronan Kelleher has been ruled out, though, with Dan Sheehan starting and Rob Herring named amongst the replacements.

Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Mack Hansen, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexon, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park; 1 Andrew Porter, 2 Dan Sheehan, 3 Finlay Bealham, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 5 James Ryan, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 7 Josh van der Flier, 8 Caelan Doris.

Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Bundee Aki.

More to follow…

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