Sexton is back to bark at his team, the opposition and the ref alike, and how Ireland have missed him. Also in the line-up is Jean Kleyn, the recently qualified South African born lock whose selection in the 31-man RWC squad ahead of Devin Toner caused quite the brouhaha on social media this week. The former Connacht midfield of Aki and Henshaw in reunited to bring some significant boom in the centres.
After his impressive thirty-minute cameo last week earned him a seat on the plane to Japan, Rhys Patchell starts at 10 for Wales. In Cardiff there was little expectation on him, arriving as he did in a losing effort in his own stadium as part of a makeshift selection. Today is far from that – he is tasked with running a largely first choice backline against a top quality side with opposition fans on his back. A poor showing here will disquiet his confidence and that of his coach and the fans.
Ireland’s scrum last week was like a panzer tank on speed versus a Wales effort that has over the recent week often resembled a septic tank on wheels. The Wales eight must show they’ve sorted it this week. The back row match-up is something to look forward to with both teams selecting a tenacious seven and then a couple of units at six and eight.
This remains a pre-season friendly, but there has to be a point at which a squad gets as near as possible to having the full game face on, and this game could be it for both of them.
Ireland: Kearney; Larmour, Henshaw, Aki, Earls; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best (capt), Furlong, Ryan, Kleyn, Stander, van der Flier, Conan.
Replacements: Cronin, Kilcoyne, Porter, Henderson, Ruddock, McGrath, Carty, Ringrose
Wales: Halfpenny; North, Jon Davies, Parkes, Adams; Patchell, T Williams; W Jones, Dee, Francis, Jake Ball, AW Jones (capt), Wainwright, Tipuric, Moriarty.
Replacements: Owens, Smith, Lewis, Bear, Navidi, Davies, Biggar, L Williams.