Ireland recall Sexton, Scotland to debut Van der Walt
DUBLIN (AP) — Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton was recalled for the Autumn Nations Cup playoff on Saturday and will oppose uncapped Scotland flyhalf Jaco van der Walt at Lansdowne Road.
Sexton injured his right hamstring taking a goalkick against Wales on Nov. 13 and missed the following group games against England and Georgia.
His 95th Irish cap will coincide with the first for Van der Walt, who qualified for Scotland on the three-year residency rule. He trained with Scotland before returning briefly to his native South Africa to get married last month.
Van der Walt has replaced Duncan Weir, who was the No. 10 through the group stage in the absence of the injured Finn Russell and Adam Hastings.
“We have been impressed with Jaco,” coach Gregor Townsend said on Thursday.
“Defensively, he must be one of the best tackling standoffs in world rugby. His passing and his kicking is at a high level.”
To the Ireland side which was second best to England two weeks ago, the pack brought in hooker Rob Herring and lock Iain Henderson, while the backline was much changed for the playoff for third-fourth place.
Sexton and Conor Murray were reunited, Bundee Aki was partnered in midfield with Robbie Henshaw who has been out since the Wales game with a groin injury, Hugo Keenan was on the wing instead of the injured James Lowe, and Jacob Stockdale was at fullback.
In the reserves, Ulster prop Eric O’Sullivan could become the 11th new cap fielded by first-year coach Andy Farrell.
Scotland lost to France 22-15 in its last match two weeks ago and has brought in wing Darcy Graham, inside center Duncan Taylor, flanker Blade Thomson for Hamish Watson, and props Zander Fagerson and Rory Sutherland.
The reserves were bolstered by former captain Stuart McInally, prop Willem Nel, flanker Blair Cowan, and center Huw Jones.
Taylor makes his first start since the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and Cowan and Jones their first appearances this autumn.
Ireland: Jacob Stockdale, Hugo Keenan, Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw, Keith Earls, Jonathan Sexton (captain), Conor Murray; Caelan Doris, Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander, James Ryan, Iain Henderson, Andrew Porter, Rob Herring, Cian Healy. Reserves: Ronan Kelleher, Eric O’Sullivan, John Ryan, Quinn Roux, Josh van der Flier, Jamison Gibson Park, Ross Byrne, Chris Farrell.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (captain), Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Duncan Taylor, Duhan van der Merwe, Jaco van der Walt, Ali Price; Matt Fagerson, Jamie Ritchie, Blade Thomson, Jonny Gray, Scott Cummings, Zander Fagerson, Fraser Brown, Rory Sutherland. Reserves: Stuart McInally, Oli Kebble, Willem Nel, Sam Skinner, Blair Cowan, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Huw Jones, Sean Maitland.
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