MUNSTER’S Keith Earls will start at outside centre in the Irish side to take on France in Sunday’s crucial World Cup Pool D clash at the Millennium Stadium, 4.45pm.
Newspaper reports on Friday morning suggested Earls may be left out of Joe Schmidt’s squad for the game which will decide which country finishes top of the pool.
A combination of Earls’ excellent World Cup form and Jared Payne’s minimal training time appears to have led Ireland head coach Schmidt to put his faith in the Munster flyer.
Ulster’s Iain Henderson, outstanding in recent games, is replaced by Devin Toner at lock.
Rob Kearney returns at full-back in place of the unlucky Simon Zebo with Cian Healy preferred to Jack McGrath at prop. Ireland will be captained by Limerickman Paul O’Connell.
France make two changes with Louis Picamoles and Noa Nakaitaci recalled.
IRELAND: Rob Kearney; Tommy Bowe, Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross; Devin Toner, Paul O’Connell (capt); Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip. Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Jack McGrath, Nathan White, Iain Henderson, Chris Henry, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Luke Fitzgerald.
FRANCE: Scott Spedding; Noa Nakaitaci, Mathieu Bastareaud, Wesley Fofana, Brice Dulin; Frederic Michalak, Sebastien Tillous-Borde; Eddy Ben Arous, Guilhem Guirado, Rabah Slimani; Pascal Pape, Yoann Maestri; Thierry Dusautior (capt), Damien Chouly, Louis Picamoles. Replacements: Benjamin Kayser, Vincent Debaty, Nicolas Mas, Alexandre Flanquart, Bernard Le Roux, Morgan Parra, Remi Tales, Alexandre Dumoulin.