By Ed Elliot, PA
Iain Henderson has been recalled by Ireland for Saturday’s sold-out Test against New Zealand in Dublin.
Ulster captain Henderson comes into the second row in place of fellow British and Irish Lion Tadhg Beirne in the only alteration to Andy Farrell’s starting XV following the emphatic 60-5 win over Japan.
Beirne drops to the bench, while the other change to Farrell’s 23-man squad sees hooker Rob Herring included on the bench in preference to last weekend’s debutant Dan Sheehan.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) November 11, 2021
Scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park retains his starting berth ahead of Conor Murray following his impressive display against the Brave Blossoms, once again partnering captain Johnny Sexton.
Gibson-Park will be one of three Ireland players facing their native country alongside winger James Lowe and centre Bundee Aki.
The returning Henderson has made just one appearance for his province following his summer involvement with Warren Gatland’s Lions and played the final 23 minutes against Japan from the bench.
He will be the sole non-Leinster player in the Irish pack, lining up alongside vice-captain James Ryan, behind a front three of Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong, while Jack Conan starts between Caelan Doris and Josh Van Der Flier in the back row.
Munster wing Andrew Conway continues on the right following his hat-trick last time out, with Lowe on the left and full-back Hugo Keenan starting a 15th successive game for Ireland.
Aki, whose only previous appearance against New Zealand was Ireland’s 16-9 win in November 2018, partners Garry Ringrose in midfield.
That Dublin victory in 2018 was the first time Ireland had beaten the Kiwis on home soil and followed a historic maiden success over their opponents in 2016 in Chicago.
However, the three-time world champions have lost just two of the previous 32 meetings between the nations and emphatically ended Ireland’s 2019 World Cup hopes with a thumping 46-14 quarter-final triumph in Tokyo.
Ian Foster’s free-scoring visitors top the current world rankings and set a new world record for the number of points scored in a calendar year – 675 – after a second-string line-up defeated Italy 47-9 last weekend in Rome.