Joe Schmidt confident in uncapped Irish duo to face England

Josh van der Flier is one of two debutants named in the Ireland team to face England in Saturday's Six Nations match
Josh van der Flier is one of two debutants named in the Ireland team to face England in Saturday's Six Nations match
Six Nations: England v Ireland
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday 27 February Kick-off: 16:50 GMT
Coverage: Live on ITV, commentary on BBC Radio 5 live & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt says he has gone with "form and balance" in picking debutants Stuart McCloskey and Josh van der Flier to play against England.

The uncapped duo will start Saturday's Six Nations match at Twickenham.

"They don't lack for enthusiasm and they are both incredibly excited about the stage they're going to be playing on," said the Ireland head coach.

Schmidt said it was a "tight decision" whether to name McCloskey or his Ulster team-mate Luke Marshall at centre.

Both have impressed at provincial level this season, forming a dynamic midfield partnership for Les Kiss' side.

This weekend's live TV and radio coverage
Fri, 26 Feb (20:05 GMT)Wales v FranceBBC One & Radio 5 live
Sat, 27 Feb (14:25 GMT)Italy v ScotlandITV & 5 live sports extra
Sat, 27 Feb (16:50 GMT)England v IrelandITV & Radio 5 live
Six Nations coverage on the BBC

"Luke has been robust and had a really good season, but Stu spent last week training at 12 with us and we felt he might be a little bit more comfortable in there," said Schmidt.

"He has some important elements in his game which we want to get the most out of and it's a great opportunity for him to express himself.

"It's also a responsibility to make sure that we are as watertight as we can be in what will be a tough area to defend.

"The bottom line is we have confidence in Stu and Robbie (Henshaw) in there."

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt explains the selection of Stuart McCloskey

Schmidt is also excited by the prospect of Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier making his debut, with Connacht's second row Ultan Dillane also expected to earn his first cap off the bench.

"We are all excited by something new," said Schmidt.

"Josh has an opportunity to go and really capture that seven jersey in what will be a really tough test for him.

"This is a step up that they haven't been to before and you never know how quick it's going to be, how physical it's going to be.

"That's always a challenge for players coming in for the first time and these guys have been rewarded with the opportunity."

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