Sexton returns to Captain Ireland against Russia

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Head coach Joe Schmidt, left, and Jonathan Sexton in conversation during Ireland Rugby squad training at the Kobelco Steelers in Kobe, Japan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Head coach Joe Schmidt, left, and Jonathan Sexton in conversation during Ireland Rugby squad training at the Kobelco Steelers in Kobe, Japan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The biggest news out of Joe Schmidt’s selection today was the news that Leinster’s Johnny Sexton returns to the squad as captain for the crucial Pool A encounter.

Head coach Joe Schmidt makes 11 changes for Thursday’s clash in Kobe following Japan defeat.

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Sexton missed Ireland’s shock defeat in Shizuoka defeat due to the thigh bang he had sustained in the 27-3 bonus-point opening win over Scotland.

Schmidt has made 11 changes from the Japan defeat to take on Russia in Kobe, to account for the five-day turnaround. The fact that Sexton is playing in a pool game against Russia shows just how little room for error Ireland have.

Two bonus point wins and Ireland will be guaranteed 2nd spot in the pool and a 1/4 final against New Zealand. If Scotland were to beat the hosts, Ireland could still top the pool.

In what is a big ask physically, Garry Ringrose and Peter O’Mahony will both be starting their 3rd game in 11 days. Aki and Ringrose make up the midfield as Chris Farrell & Robbie Henshaw are out with concussion and hamstring problems respectively.

Munster provide the entire front five and 6 of the pack. Jordi Murphy is straight in after linking up with the squad this week while Joey Carbery will cover scrum-half from the bench.