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Andy Farrell has named four Ulster players in the match-day squad in his first game as Irish boss after taking over from Joe Schmidt at the conclusion of the World Cup.

With Rory Best retiring, the hooker jersey is passed down to another Ulster player, Rob Herring. Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale remain in the second row and on the wing respectively. John Cooney is the remaining Ulster player and starts on the bench behind Conor Murray.

Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong start alongside Rob Herring in the front row while James Ryan partners Henderson at lock. Peter O’Mahony is included on the bench with Caelan Doris pushing CJ Stander to the blindside. Josh van der Flier starts at 7.

Although Conor Murray has not been in great form this season he starts alongside Johnny Sexton at half back with the outhalf being named as Best’s successor. Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose are in the midfield while Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour make up at frighteningly quick Irish back three.

Doris was the stand out Irish U20 international at the 2018 U20 World Championship and has impressed in the short time he’s been around the Leinster set up. With Doris and Deegan two of the many Leinster back rows coming through, Ireland are certainly not in short supply of them in the coming years. Leinster team mate Ronan Kelleher is the other debutant having started the PRO14 season superbly scoring six tries.

The news of Finn Russell’s departure from the Scottish set up has grabbed the headlines this week with the SRU citing a ‘breach of team protocol’ as reason for his exit. Russell returns to Paris with Adam Hastings his replacement at out half tomorrow. Russell is a big loss as Hastings isn’t quite the finished article despite showing bags of potential. However levels of flair will not drop with the Glasgow half back showing the same level of creativity as Russell.

Despite being over three years out from the next World Cup, this Six Nations will have a significant bearing on France 2023. With the draw for the pools being made at the conclusion of the Autumn Internationals this year, it’s crucial that Ireland have a decent Six Nations to avoid a group of death situation like 2007 or 2011.

This is why I don’t think it was a good idea for Farrell to completely start from scratch. Still, he has made significant changes with Keith Earls and Rob Kearney being omitted while Peter O’Mahony drops to the bench. Cooney is waiting in the wings if Ireland need to speed up the tempo in the latter stages of the game. I think Farrell has made the right number of changes from the World Cup as he tries to get the national side back on the right path.

I think this will be a tough campaign for Ireland. Wales are in the same boat in regards to a new coach however they are coming off the back of a super showing in the World Cup as well as a Grand Slam last year. On paper, France have an exceptionally talented squad while England are always going to be up there.

Ireland have three home games this year but face away trips to France and England. France certainly won’t roll over and hand the game over like they did two years ago while England are always formidable opponents. I suspect a third place finish for Ireland with England and Wales finishing in first and second

The FRU predicts: Ireland should beat Scotland and win all of their home games. I can see two losses on the road however.

Ireland to win tomorrow by 13 points.

Ireland   Scotland
Jordan Larmour 15 Stuart Hogg
Andrew Conway 14 Sean Maitland
Garry Ringrose 13 Huw Jones
Bundee Aki 12 Sam Johnson
Jacob Stockdale 11 Blair Kinghorn
Johnny Sexton 10 Adam Hastings
Conor Murray 9 Ali Price
Cian Healy 1 Rory Sutherland
Rob Herring 2 Fraser Brown
Tadhg Furlong 3 Zander Fagerson
Iain Henderson 4 Scott Cummings
James Ryan 5 Jonny Gray
CJ Stander 6 Jamie Ritchie
Josh vd Flier 7 Hamish Watson
Caelan Doris 8 Nick Haining
     
Ronan Kelleher 16 Stuart McInally
Dave Kilcoyne 17 Allan Dell
Andrew Porter 18 Simon Berghan
Devin Toner 19 Ben Toolis
Peter O’Mahony 20 Cornell du Preez
John Cooney 21 George Horne
Ross Byrne 22 Rory Hutchinson
Robbie Henshaw 23 Chris Harris
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