Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has announced the team that will take to the field at Eden Park in Auckland in the first match of the three-Test Series against New Zealand.
Jonathan Sexton will captain the side, which includes ten of the starters from last November’s 29-20 home win over the All Blacks, and is partnered at half-back by Jamison Gibson-Park.
Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw combine again in midfield for the 2022 Triple Crown winners, while Keith Earls backs up from the Māori All Blacks match to start in the back-three.
With Mack Hansen sidelined due to Covid-19, the Limerick man has won the battle for the right wing berth, with James Lowe on the left and Hugo Keenan stationed at full-back.
Up front, loosehead prop Andrew Porter returns to international action after missing the final two Guinness Six Nations fixtures through injury.
Dan Sheehan, who lines out against New Zealand for the first time, Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan complete the tight five. Beirne steps in for Iain Henderson whose summer tour was ended by a knee injury.
Munster skipper Peter O’Mahony brings plenty of experience to the blindside flanker berth, linking up in the loose forwards with Leinster pair Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris.
Bundee Aki, who captained Ireland in Wednesday’s uncapped game, is one of three Connacht players on the replacements bench. Rewarded for his solid form, Ulster lock Kieran Treadwell could win his sixth cap.
Listed as one of the reserve props, Cian Healy is nursing an ankle injury from the defeat to the Māori All Blacks, yet Farrell is ‘optimistic’ that the Dubliner will be fit to be part of the matchday 23.
“I think Cian had a bit more of a scare than anything else,” the Ireland boss said. “He recovered pretty quickly in the changing room after the game.
“He’s still a bit sore this morning. He’s obviously going through a few protocols now with the rehab, etc., but we’re going to give him through to tomorrow. He’s made such improvement, we’re optimistic about that.”
He added: “We’re under no illusions what we’re up against at the weekend. Like I’ve said to you before, any type of performance that we’d have before where we’ve managed to get over the line that won’t do this weekend. I’m sure about that.
“What really wins top level rugby is always going to be the same. Your set piece, our discipline was pretty poor last night – there’s been good chat in and around that – and obviously the accuracy of our game in general.
“So all that needs to come to fruition under extreme pressure. It’s difficult to do, but we’re in a good enough headspace to be able to attack that full on come the kick-off on Saturday night.”
The much-anticipated opening Test in Auckland will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Action/Main Event and RTÉ 2fm. You can follow all the action on our IRFU Live Blog and social channels.
IRELAND Team & Replacements (v New Zealand, Eden Park, Auckland, 2022 Summer Tour First Test, Saturday, July 2, kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time):
15. Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster) 20
14. Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 96
13. Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 42
12. Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 57
11. James Lowe (Leinster) 12
10. Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) (capt) 105
9. Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster) 17
1. Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 43
2. Dan Sheehan (Lansdowne/Leinster) 7
3. Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 57
4. Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster) 30
5. James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 43
6. Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 84
7. Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 40
8. Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 17
16. Dave Heffernan (Buccaneers/Connacht) 6
17. Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht) 23
18. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 116
19. Kieran Treadwell (Ballymena/Ulster) 5
20. Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster) 27
21. Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 96
22. Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Munster) 32
23. Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 37
Ireland 2022 Summer Tour Fixtures:
Māori All Blacks 32 IRELAND 17
FMG Stadium, Hamilton
New Zealand v IRELAND
Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday, July 2, kick-off 8.05am Irish time
New Zealand v IRELAND
Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, Saturday, July 9, kick-off 8.05am Irish time
Māori All Blacks v IRELAND
Sky Stadium, Wellington, Tuesday, July 12, kick-off 8.05am Irish time
New Zealand v IRELAND
Sky Stadium, Wellington, Saturday, July 16, kick-off 8.05am Irish time