Six Nations 2016: CJ Stander to make Ireland debut against Wales

South-African born CJ Stander joined Irish province Munster in 2013
South-African born CJ Stander joined Irish province Munster in 2013
Six Nations: Ireland v Wales
Date: Sunday, 7 February Venue: Aviva Stadium Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on Radio 5 live sports extra, BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

CJ Stander will make his Ireland debut as the holders open their Six Nations campaign against Wales on Sunday.

South African-born Stander, 25, is in a back row which includes Munster team-mate Tommy O'Donnell as Sean O'Brien is ruled out by a hamstring injury.

Rob Kearney is also out because of a hamstring problem so Simon Zebo starts at full-back in Dublin with Andrew Trimble and Keith Earls on the wings.

Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw will renew their centre partnership.

Both players have been sidelined for lengthy spells through injury but coach Joe Schmidt keeps faith with the pair despite the claims of in-form Ulsterman Stuart McCloskey.

'No added pressure' as Schmidt's Ireland chase historic treble

Jack McGrath, new captain Rory Best and Nathan White make up the front row, with props James Cronin and Tadhg Furlong, plus hooker Sean Cronin, providing cover from the bench.

Leinster locks Devin Toner and Mike McCarthy start in the second row, with Jamie Heaslip completing the back row.

The sides shows nine changes from the heavy World Cup quarter-final defeat by Argentina with Earls, Henshaw, Conor Murray, Best, Toner and Heaslip the players to retain their places.

Stander, who starts at blindside flanker, signed for Munster in 2013 and qualified to play for Ireland in November by virtue of the three-year residency rule.

He was named Munster captain for the season when regular skipper Peter O'Mahony suffered a season-ending injury against Argentina during the World Cup.

Renowned for his voracious ball-carrying skills, Stander has been the stand-out player for the Irish province this season and was described by Schmidt on Friday as being a "really committed character".

"We felt he would make it a good mix in the absence of Sean O'Brien," added the Ireland coach.

This weekend's live TV coverage
Sat, 6 Feb (14:25): France v Italy, BBC One
Sat, 6 Feb (16:50): Scotland v England, BBC One
Sun, 7 Feb (15:00): Ireland v Wales, ITV
Six Nations coverage on the BBC

The choice of Trimble, who missed the World Cup, and Earls means that Dave Kearney must settle for a place on the replacements' bench, where he will be joined by Ian Madigan, whose versatility sees him get the nod ahead of Ulster's Paddy Jackson.

Connacht scrum-half Kieran Marmion is named in the replacements ahead of Leinster's Eoin Reddan.

Johnny Sexton is fit to continue his half-back partnership with Conor Murray after overcoming a head injury sustained in Leinster's Champions Cup defeat by Wasps.

In addition to Kearney, O'Brien and O'Mahony, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has also been forced to plan without the retired Paul O'Connell, plus injured players Mike Ross, Cian Healy, Marty Moore, Iain Henderson, Chris Henry, Tommy Bowe and Luke Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald was ruled out of the tournament this week after suffering a knee ligament injury in training.

O'Brien and Rob Kearney sat out training on Friday but the Ireland management are hoping that they will be available for next weekend's game against France in Paris.

"Sean O'Brien would have been just on the edge of being available to play," added Schmidt.

"But we'd have no concerns about next week for France. Rob Kearney should be fully fit at the latest by Thursday next week."

Ireland: S Zebo; A Trimble, J Payne, R Henshaw, K Earls; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best (capt), N White; D Toner, M McCarthy; CJ Stander, T O'Donnell, J Heaslip.

Replacements: S Cronin, J Cronin, T Furlong, D Ryan, Ruddock, Marmion, I Madigan, D Kearney.

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