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Iain Henderson and Rory Best return to Ireland squad for France test

Ireland's Rory Best and Iain Henderson (INPHO/James Crombie)
Ireland's Rory Best and Iain Henderson (INPHO/James Crombie)
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has recalled Ulster duo Iain Henderson and Rory Best to his starting line-up for their Six Nations clash with France on Sunday (3pm).

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Best captains the side from hooker after being rested for the win over Italy a couple of weeks ago, while Henderson makes his first start in this year's Championship in the second row.

They're joined in the starting line-up by Jacob Stockdale, who is named on the wing again, while scrum-half John Cooney keeps his spot on the bench.

A win for Ireland in Dublin would keep the pressure on Wales at the top of the standings and, depending on other results, could set up a winner-takes-all clash at the Principality Stadium next Saturday.

Henderson and Best are two of seven changes to the starting line-up from the victory in the Stadio Olimpico two weeks ago, with six of those coming in the pack.

Skipper Best is joined in the front row by Cian Healy, who replaces Dave Kilcoyne at loosehead prop, and the only front row survivor from the Italian job at tighthead, Tadhg Furlong.

It's an all-new engine room as James Ryan returns alongside Henderson, while in the back row Peter O'Mahony has two new partners in the form of Josh van der Flier on the openside and CJ Stander, who has returned from injury, at No.8.

The only change in the backs comes in the centre, where Garry Ringrose makes his return alongside Bundee Aki, while the back three of Stockdale, Keith Earls and Rob Kearney is unchanged.

Schmidt has kept faith with his misfiring half-back duo of Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton in the hope that they will regain their world-beating form through game time.

Cooney maintains his position as back-up scrum-half to Murray on the bench, despite Kieran Marmion being available again, however there's no room for Ulster flanker Jordi Murphy as Jack Conan gets the nod on the bench.

The front row replacements all hail from Munster, with Niall Scannell, Kilcoyne and John Ryan forming the tight trio, with Connacht's Ultan Dillane somewhat surprisingly named as replacement lock ahead of Tadhg Beirne.

In the backs, Cooney is joined by Connacht stand-off Jack Carty and Leinster utility back Jordan Larmour as the substitutes.

Ireland team to face France (Sunday, 3pm, Aviva Stadium)

15. Rob Kearney (Leinster); 14. Keith Earls (Munster), 13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster), 12. Bundee Aki (Connacht), 11. Jacob Stockdale (Ulster); 10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), 9. Conor Murray (Munster); 1. Cian Healy (Leinster), 2. Rory Best (Ulster, captain), 3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster); 4. Iain Henderson (Ulster), 5. James Ryan (Leinster); 6. Peter O'Mahony (Munster), 7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster), 8. CJ Stander (Munster).

Replacements: 16. Niall Scannell (Munster), 17. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), 18. John Ryan (Munster), 19. Ultan Dillane (Connacht), 20. Jack Conan (Leinster), 21. John Cooney (Ulster), 22. Jack Carty (Connacht), 23. Jordan Larmour (Leinster).

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