Sexton back for Ireland, Patchell starting for Wales
DUBLIN (AP) — Flyhalf Jonathan Sexton has recovered from a dislocated left thumb to make his first appearance in Ireland’s Rugby World Cup warmups, against Wales on Saturday in Dublin.
Sexton, the world player of 2018, was injured in June in training. He’s missed wins against Wales and Italy and a loss to England.
He’s in harness with scrumhalf Conor Murray, who took a head knock against England two weeks ago.
Center Robbie Henshaw and wing Keith Earls also make their first appearances in the warmup series after injuries.
After revealing the World Cup squad this week, coach Joe Schmidt has retained only three players from the 22-17 win against Wales last weekend in Cardiff, and picked 10 to start again from the record 57-15 hiding from England two weekends ago in London, including his first choice front row and midfield.
This warmup is Ireland’s last before the World Cup opener against Scotland on Sept. 22 in Yokohama, Japan.
After auditioning backup players in Cardiff, where Ireland’s held out Wales’ 22-17, both sides are closer to full strength.
Backup halves Tomos Williams and Rhys Patchell will start for Wales in a completely revamped side.
Scrumhalf Williams and flyhalf Patchell played the second half last weekend and revived Wales from 22-3 down. They are backups to regular starters Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar, who are in the reserves. Williams will make his second start of the year and Patchell his first since June last year, but they will be surrounded by what is close to Wales’ best XV.
Loosehead prop Wyn Jones, hooker Elliot Dee, and flanker Aaron Wainwright have also been given bonus starts, with coach Warren Gatland saying this last warmup was a chance for players to secure starting spots for their first World Cup match on Sept. 23 against Georgia in Toyota, Japan.
The side is different by five from that which beat England 13-6 in Cardiff in the return match of their series last month.
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Keith Earls, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack Conan, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander, Jean Kleyn, James Ryan, Tadhg Furlong, Rory Best (captain), Cian Healy. Reserves: Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Iain Henderson, Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath, Jack Carty, Garry Ringrose.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Rhys Patchell, Tomos Williams; Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric, Aaron Wainwright, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Jake Ball, Tomas Francis, Elliot Dee, Wyn Jones. Reserves: Ken Owens, Nicky Smith, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Josh Navidi, Gareth Davies, Dan Biggar, Liam Williams.