New Zealand-born wing Lowe to make Ireland debut

DUBLIN (Reuters) - New Zealand-born wing James Lowe will make his much anticipated Ireland debut in Friday’s Autumn Nations Cup opener against Wales as Andy Farrell’s men look to bounce back from a disappointing end to the Six Nations.

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - European Champions Cup - Pool 1 - Northampton Saints v Leinster Rugby - Franklin's Gardens, Northampton, Britain - December 7, 2019 Leinster Rugby's James Lowe in action Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

Former Maori All Black Lowe, 28, qualifies by residency to play for Ireland, having spent the last three-and-a-half seasons with Leinster where he has played a major role in three successive Pro14 titles and a European Champions Cup.

“He brings an extra dimension to how we want to play. We’ve all seen him play in the Pro14 and what he brings for Leinster,” Farrell told a news conference on Tuesday.

“He brings competition for places back into our squad, which is very important for us going forward... We’re planning for the here and now and for the future.”

Farrell made seven changes from the side that needed a bonus point victory over France in Paris on Oct. 31 to seal the delayed Six Nations crown but fell to a 35-27 defeat that meant both teams missed out to champions England.

Fellow Irish-qualified Kiwi Jamison Gibson-Park will make his first start at scrumhalf with the experienced trio of Peter O’Mahony, Iain Henderson and Josh van der Flier coming into the pack, along with young hooker Ronan Kelleher.

The other change sees Chris Farrell start at outside centre, while Ulster’s Billy Burns, a former England Under-20s flyhalf whose grandfather is Irish, looks set to win his first cap off the bench.

Ireland team:

15-Jacob Stockdale, 14-Hugo Keenan, 13-Chris Farrell, 12-Robbie Henshaw, 11-James Lowe, 10-Jonathan Sexton (captain), 9-Jamison Gibson-Park, 8-Caelan Doris, 7-Josh van der Flier, 6-Peter O’Mahony, 5-James Ryan, 4-Iain Henderson, 3-Andrew Porter, 2-Ronan Kelleher, 1-Cian Healy

Replacements: 16-Dave Heffernan, 17-Ed Byrne, 18-Finlay Bealham, 19-Quinn Roux, 20-Will Connors, 21-Conor Murray, 22-Billy Burns, 23-Keith Earls

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ken Ferris