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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Ruaidhri O'Connor Twitter

Major Six Nations blow for Ireland as Tadhg Furlong ruled out of Wales clash

Tadhg Furlong has lost his fitness race. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

IRELAND will kick off their Guinness Six Nations campaign without talismanic tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong.

The Leinster star, who last played on December 3, did not come through training in Portugal and his place will be taken by Connacht’s Finlay Bealham as Ulster’s Tom O’Toole comes on to the bench.

Speaking about Furlong's absence, Ireland head coach Andy Farrel confirmed he is still recovering from a lingering calf issue.

"He's not quite ready, he's progressing well. He could possibly be there in the next few days, but Finlay deserves it," Farrell said.

"He's playing very well, last time out he scored a hat-trick. Tadhg should be back for France."

Otherwise, the team is along expected lines with Stuart McCloskey picked ahead of Bundee Aki, who must be content with a place on the bench.

The Ulsterman, who started all three matches in November, partners Garry Ringrose, with Hugo Keenan, Mack Hansen and James Lowe making up the back-three.

Johnny Sexton captains the team after recovering from his facial injury, with Jamison Gibson-Park at scrum-half. Ross Byrne has been picked ahead of Jack Crowley as reserve out-half.

Up front, Bealham is joined by Dan Sheehan and Andrew Porter in the front-row, with James Ryan resuming his partnership with Tadhg Beirne in the second-row.

Behind them, Peter O’Mahony joins Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris in the back-row.

With Ronan Kelleher out injured, Rob Herring covers hooker while Cian Healy edges Dave Kilcoyne for the reserve loosehead spot.

Iain Henderson and Jack Conan cover the back-five, with Conor Murray and Bundee Aki providing further experience on the bench.

Ireland team vs Wales: H Keenan, M Hansen, G Ringrose, S McCloskey, J Lowe, J Sexton (C), J Gibson-Park, A Porter, D Sheehan, F Bealham, T Beirne, J Ryan, P O'Mahony, J van der Flier, C Doris.

Replacements: R Herring, C Healy, T O'Toole, I Henderson, J Conan, C Murray, R Byrne, B Aki.

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