Rugby

Ciaran Frawley to make first Ireland start in place of injured Hugo Keenan

The versatile 26-year-old has played just 44 minutes of international rugby.

Leinster’s Ciaran Frawley will make his first Ireland start this weekend
Leinster’s Ciaran Frawley Leinster’s Ciaran Frawley will make his first Ireland start this weekend (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ciaran Frawley will make his first Test start in Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations clash with Wales after being selected in place of injured full-back Hugo Keenan.

The versatile 26-year-old won his two previous caps as a replacement, including playing the final four minutes of the championship curtain-raiser away to France.

Keenan has been virtually ever-present in his country’s number 15 jersey during the past three years but will miss Saturday’s match in Dublin due to a knee injury suffered in the round-two victory over Italy.



Head coach Andy Farrell, who has included uncapped Munster prop Oli Jager among the replacements, has made seven personnel changes to his starting XV from the 36-0 win over the Azzurri Italy on February 11.

Captain Peter O’Mahony, prop Tadhg Furlong and centre Bundee Aki return following injuries, while lock Tadhg Beirne, scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park and flanker Josh Van Der Flier are also recalled.

This weekend’s fixture will be O’Mahony’s 50th Six Nations match in the green jersey and his 103rd cap overall for Ireland.

Second-row James Ryan, flanker Ryan Baird, number eight Jack Conan and centre Stuart McCloskey drop to a bench containing a six-two split of forwards and backs.

McCloskey is the only Ulster player to be involved in the squad with Jacob Stockdale, Tom O’Toole and Nick Timoney featuring in Ulster’s loss to Welsh side Osprey’s last weekend

Prop Finlay Bealham and scrum-half Craig Casey have been left out of the matchday 23 after starting against Italy.

Ireland’s Hugo Keenan (left) is out injured
Ireland’s Hugo Keenan Ireland’s Hugo Keenan (left) is out injured (Brian Lawless/PA)

Lock Iain Henderson, who suffered a foot injury playing for Ulster last weekend, is not involved, while centre Garry Ringrose remains absent after missing the opening two rounds with a shoulder issue.

Frawley has been battling Jack Crowley and Harry Byrne for action at fly-half but Farrell has limited back-up options at full-back due to Jimmy O’Brien and Mack Hansen being ruled out of the entire tournament.

The full debutant has played a total of just 44 minutes of international rugby, during cameos in last summer’s World Cup warm-up win over Italy and the 38-17 victory over Les Bleus at the start of the month.

Crowley continues in the number 10 role, partnering Gibson-Park, with Aki and Robbie Henshaw in midfield and Calvin Nash and James Lowe retained on the wings.

In the front row, returning tighthead Furlong will pack down alongside Leinster team-mates Andrew Porter and Dan Sheehan, ahead of the second row pairing of Joe McCarthy and Beirne.

Caelan Doris, who stood in as skipper last time out, reverts from openside flanker to number eight. Van der Flier returns to the number seven role, while O’Mahony is back in at blindside flanker.

Hooker Ronan Kelleher, prop Cian Healy and scrum-half Conor Murray complete the bench.

Ireland are seeking a third successive win in this year’s championship – and an 18th in a row at home – after launching their title defence with back-to-back bonus-point victories over France and Italy.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has named a six-two split of forwards and backs on his bench
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has named a six-two split of forwards and backs on his bench Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has named a six-two split of forwards and backs on his bench (Brian Lawless/PA)

Opponents Wales began with narrow defeats to Scotland and England and have not won a Six Nations fixture in Dublin since 2012.

Ireland: C Frawley (Leinster); C Nash (Munster), R Henshaw (Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Lowe (Leinster); J Crowley (Munster), J Gibson-Park (Leinster); A Porter (Leinster), D Sheehan (Leinster), T Furlong (Leinster), J McCarthy (Leinster), T Beirne (Munster), P O’Mahony (Munster, capt), J van der Flier (Leinster), C Doris (Leinster).

Replacements: R Kelleher (Leinster), C Healy (Leinster), O Jager (Munster), J Ryan (Leinster), R Baird (Leinster), J Conan (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), S McCloskey (Ulster).