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Sexton back as Irish recall the big guns

international RUGBY

by ruaidhri o'connor

Johnny Sexton is set to return to the Ireland No.10 jersey as Joe Schmidt makes wholesale changes to his side for the second Test against Australia on Saturday.

Peter O'Mahony is expected to continue to lead the team in the second tour game against the Wallabies as the head coach recalls a host of players from the team that beat England in Twickenham to win the Grand Slam in March.

Ireland need a victory in Melbourne to take the series to a decider in Sydney next weekend after losing the opener 18-9 last Saturday.

Having used last week's first Test defeat to trial some combinations, there is a more established look to this week's line-up as Sexton comes in for Joey Carbery to join Conor Murray at half-back.

After sitting out last week's game, Garry Ringrose is likely to come into the team alongside Robbie Henshaw.

Henshaw shifts inside to the No.12 jersey as Bundee Aki misses out for the first time in his maiden campaign.

Schmidt was due to make a final call on his back three once he had established whether or not Keith Earls has been cleared to play at training overnight.

The winger failed a Head Injury Assessment after coming off in Brisbane, but Ireland were hopeful that he would be available to form part of an unchanged back three.

Dan Leavy is expected to come into the back-row alongside O’Mahony and CJ Stander, while Devin Toner will replace Iain Henderson to partner James Ryan in the second-row. Up front, the all-Leinster trio that came off the bench last weekend are likely to get the nod this time.

Both sides are due to name their teams overnight, with Australia expected to name an unchanged XV.

And Wallabies back-row David Pocock said a changed side would be no surprise to the hosts.

“They probably will make changes,” he said. “They have a lot of experience they can bring in. But we are focusing on us, on trying to improve a few things and we need to work on our core stuff because the reality is we have only been together just over a week now.

“There is plenty that we can improve on without looking too far ahead. Once the teams are named, you look at what may be coming. Both teams know they can get better.”

IRELAND (Possible team v Australia): R Kearney; K Earls, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Stockdale; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, J Ryan; P O’Mahony (capt), D Leavy, CJ Stander. Reps: TBC

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