Ireland captain Sexton ruled out of France game with Burns drafted inon February 12, 2021 at 11:44 am

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Johnny Sexton will miss Ireland’s Six Nations game against France because of a head knock as Ulster’s Billy Burns is drafted in at fly-half.

Johnny Sexton is helped off the field in Cardiff last Sunday
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Sunday, 14 February Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Sport website and app. Live text coverage and video highlights on BBC Sport website and app.

A hamstring injury also rules out Conor Murray as Jamison Gibson-Park starts.

Iain Henderson is named captain as he replaces injured James Ryan and Rhys Ruddock comes in for Peter O’Mahony.

Munster back row O’Mahony is unavailable for Sunday’s home game at the Aviva Stadium after being handed a three-match ban following his first-half red card in the Cardiff defeat.

French doctor’s comments ‘stunk’ – Farrell

During the week, Sexton became embroiled in a dispute with French neurologist Dr Jean-Francois Chermann regarding his concussion record, before receiving an apology.

Chermann treated the 35-year-old during his time with French club Racing 92.

Sexton insisted he had never felt under pressure to rush back from a head injury and would not take “stupid” risks due to his family commitments and he was ruled out on Thursday after undertaking the return to play protocols.

Asked for his view on the French neurologist’s comments, Ireland coach Andy Farrell said they “stunk on so many grounds…I’ll leave it at that”.

Like Sexton, lock Ryan was forced off with a head injury at the Principality Stadium and has also not recovered in time to face Les Bleus.

Burns, who came on for regular skipper Sexton in Cardiff, will be making his first Six Nations start after his chastening conclusion to last weekend’s game as he kicked the ball dead when aiming for touch to end Ireland’s hopes of a dramatic last-gasp victory.

Despite that devastating moment, Farrell said Burns has “trained outstandingly this week”.

“He’s been great. He’s strong Billy. He’s a proper footballer,” added the Ireland coach.

“Everyone makes mistakes and, at international rugby, he understands the extent of that. But he’s a true professional, his team are right behind him.”

Jamison Gibson-Park is named at scrum-half because of Conor Murray's hamstring injury

Farrell only learned of scrum-half Murray’s absence 15 minutes before the team announcement which means his side will have a different half-back combination as Leinster’s Gibson-Park partners Burns.

Gibson-Park’s promotion means that Murray’s Munster club-mate Craig Casey is named on the bench.

Henderson will be captaining his country for the first time in the absence of both Sexton and Ryan on his first start since sustaining a knee injury during the Autumn Nations Cup.

Ruddock, who has never previously started a Six Nations match despite making his Ireland debut in 2010, won the last of his 26 caps in the 2019 World Cup quarter-final defeat to New Zealand and was not involved in any of Farrell’s squads last year.

Despite the enforced absence of four senior players, Farrell remains upbeat about his chances of upsetting the Six Nations favourites.

“We’ve obviously lost a few experienced players during the week but one man’s loss is another man’s opportunity. Our squad depth is coming into play.”

France coach Fabien Galthie makes two changes to the side which hammered Italy as Damien Penaud replaces Teddy Thomas at wing and Anthony Jelonch comes in at blindside flanker for Dylan Cretin.

Romain Ntamack is still missing after sustaining a jaw fracture with club side Toulouse which enables Matthieu Jalibert to continue his half-back partnership with the in-form Antoine Dupont.

Line-ups

Ireland: Keenan; Earls, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe; Burns, Gibson-Park; Healy, Herring, Porter; Beirne, Henderson (capt); Ruddock, Van der Flier, Stander.

Replacements: Kelleher, E Byrne, Furlong, Dillane, Connors, Casey, R Byrne, Larmour.

France: Dulin; Penaud, Vincent, Fickou, Villiere; Jalivert, Dupont; Baille, Marchand, Haouas; Le Roux, Willemse; Jelonch, Ollivon (capt), Alldritt.

Replacements: Bourgarit, Kolingar, Atonio, Taofifenua, Cretin, Serin, Bouthier, Thomas.

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