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Ireland handed significant boost for England clash as Hugo Keenan passed fit

Ireland's Hugo Keenan stands for a portrait

Hugo Keenan has been passed fit to start at full-back for Ireland against England on Saturday in a significant boost to Andy Farrell’s side.

Keenan suffered a knee injury during the 36-0 victory over Italy in round two but has returned to start ahead of Ciaran Frawley, who drops to a bench that again features six forwards.

James Ryan is not among those replacements, though, the lock having suffered a “freak accident” in training. His bicep injury will rule him out of the remainder of the Six Nations as Ireland chase another Grand Slam.

Iain Henderson comes onto a bench that also includes Ronan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Conor Murray and Frawley. Farrell, whose team are bidding for back-to-back clean sweeps of the competition, saluted the availability of Keenan as a major fillip.

“I think it would be a boost for any side in world rugby,” Farrell said. “He’s a world-class full-back.

“It’s testament to him and it’s no shock to us that he’s been able to get himself back to this position to be involved this weekend as he’s been unbelievably diligent over the last few weeks to make that happen.”

Peter O’Mahony captains Ireland from blindside flanker in a back row that is completed by Caelan Doris and Josh van der Flier. Joe McCarthy and Tadhg Beirne pack down as locks behind the settled front-row trio of Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong.

Jamison Gibson-Park and Jack Crowley are the starting half-backs, with James Lowe and Calvin Nash on the wings either side of Keenan.

Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw reprise their centre partnership, and with the versatile Frawley providing midfield cover, both Stuart McCloskey and Garry Ringrose are surplus to requirements. Farrell confirmed that Ringrose, who is yet to appear in this Six Nations, was fully fit.

“He’s fit and he’s well, he’s trained all week,” said the Ireland head coach. “He’s done all the contact work necessary to be available. It’s just circumstances. Garry knows exactly.

“I had a chat with him yesterday and he was smiling in the fact that it’s just circumstances. He knows what I think about him as a rugby player and his comment to me was that he’s been on the good side of circumstances so many times as a player as well so he understands.”

‘It’s a privileged type of week for us’

Ireland finish their campaign against Scotland a week on Saturday, and Farrell is mindful of the hard work that lies ahead.

“It’s a privileged type of week for us. We have got good people. We have got people who care about what’s right for the team and they understand that our job is to do exactly that as far as selection is concerned etc.

“Everyone rows in together. I have no doubt that the back-to-back nature of the last two games is going to test the full squad. It’s nice to have a fit enough squad, even though we have got a couple of injuries there going into the second last game.

“Hopefully there are not too many casualties this weekend, I suppose that is the nature of it, so we would expect a little bit of that. But ties us in nicely for next week as well, having good players that missed out this weekend.”

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