Caelan Doris to captain Ireland for first time in Italy Six Nations clash

Caelan Doris at an Ireland press conference during 2023 Rugby World Cup Caelan Doris will captain Ireland against Italy (Adam Davy/PA)

Caelan Doris will captain Ireland for the first time in Sunday’s Six Nations clash with Italy in Dublin.

The 25-year-old, who switches from number eight to openside flanker, has been selected to lead a starting XV showing six personnel changes from last Friday’s 38-17 round-one demolition of France.

Munster scrum-half Craig Casey will make only his fourth Test start, while centre Stuart McCloskey, prop Finlay Bealham, lock James Ryan and back-rowers Ryan Baird and Jack Conan also come in.

Regular skipper Peter O’Mahony, who missed training earlier in the week, is one of four established stars given the weekend off, in addition to Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne and Bundee Aki.

Jamison Gibson-Park and 2022 world player of the year Josh van der Flier drop to a much-changed bench, which also includes fly-half Harry Byrne and versatile back Jordan Larmour.

Skipper Doris last wore the number seven jersey for his country in last summer’s 33-17 World Cup warm-up win over Italy in which he scored two tries.

His positional move allows number eight Conan to make his first international start since suffering a foot injury in that match, with Baird lining up at blindside.

Tighthead Bealham, who this week became a father, joins loosehead prop Andrew Porter and hooker Dan Sheehan in the front row, while Joe McCarthy will partner recalled Leinster team-mate Ryan in the second row following his man-of-the-match display in Marseille.

Jack Crowley continues at fly-half, forming a partnership with his provincial team-mate Casey, whose last two starts also came against Italy.

Ulster’s McCloskey links up with Robbie Henshaw in midfield, with wings James Lowe and Calvin Nash and full-back Hugo Keenan retained in an unchanged back three.

Hooker Ronan Kelleher, lock Iain Henderson and props Jeremy Loughman and Tom O’Toole complete the bench.

Cian Healy, Conor Murray and Ciaran Frawley drop out of the matchday 23.

Ireland have won 23 of the past 24 Six Nations meetings between the countries, with their only defeat a 22-15 loss in Rome in 2013.

Ireland team to play Italy in Six Nations

Forwards: 1 Andrew Porter (Leinster), 2 Dan Sheehan (Leinster), 3 Finlay Bealham (Connacht), 4 Joe McCarthy (Leinster), 5 James Ryan (Leinster), 6 Ryan Baird (Leinster), 7 Caelan Doris (Captain, Leinster), 8 Jack Conan (Leinster)

Backs: 9 Craig Casey (Munster), 10 Jack Crowley (Munster), 11 James Lowe (Leinster), 12 Stuart McCloskey (Ulster), 13 Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), 14 Calvin Nash (Munster), 15 Hugo Keenan (Leinster)

Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher (Leinster), 17 Jeremy Loughman (Munster), 18 Tom O’Toole (Ulster), 19 Iain Henderson (Ulster), 20 Josh van der Flier (Leinster), 21 Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster), 22 Harry Byrne (Leinster), 23 Jordan Larmour (Leinster)

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