Sexton wins Irish fly-half battle
February 23, 2010
Jonathan Sexton starts at fly-half for Ireland © PA Photos
Jonathan Sexton has beaten Ronan O'Gara to the Ireland fly-half jersey for their Six Nations showdown with England at Twickenham.
Sexton will lead the line while Leicester's Geordan Murphy returns at fullback in place of the injured Rob Kearney. Keith Earls and Tommy Bowe continue on the wings.
The young Leinster pivot will go up against Jonny Wilkinson in his first Six Nations start after the Toulon man was able to hold off the challenge of Toby Flood and retain the England fly-half berth.
In the pack, tight-head John Hayes will win his 100th Ireland cap, the first player to do so, and Munster's Donncha O'Callaghan returns to the second-row alongside Paul O'Connell. Rory Best will start at hooker following Jerry Flannery's six-week ban for kicking France's Alexis Palisson.
O'Gara drops to the bench, meaning that Paddy Wallace is out of the 22. Andrew Trimble and Tony Buckley both return among the replacements.
Ireland: G Murphy (Leicester), T Bowe (Ospreys), B O'Driscoll (Leinster) capt, G D'Arcy (Leinster), K Earls (Munster), J Sexton (Leinster), T O'Leary (Munster), C Healy (Leinster), Rory Best (Ulster), J Hayes (Munster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), D Wallace (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster)
Replacements: S Cronin (Connacht), T Buckley (Munster), L Cullen (Leinster), S Jennings (Leinster), E Reddan (Leinster), R O'Gara (Munster), A Trimble (Ulster)
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Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September