Jack Crowley starts for Ireland against Italy amid push for fly-half spot at World Cup

Jack Crowley will partner Craig Casey in the half-back berths for Ireland as they continue their preparations for the Rugby World Cup in France against Italy in Dublin this Saturday; Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale gets his opportunity on the left wing after a lengthy wait

        Jack Crowley starts for Ireland against Italy amid push for fly-half spot at World Cup

Ireland’s Jack Crowley

Jack Crowley has been given the chance to stake his claim for Ireland’s fly-half role ahead of the World Cup after being selected to start Saturday’s Dublin clash with Italy.

The in-form 23-year-old is preferred to Ross Byrne and the uncapped Ciaran Frawley in the absence of suspended captain Johnny Sexton.

Crowley, who helped Munster win the United Rugby Championship in May, will be partnered by provincial team-mate Craig Casey in the half-back positions on the occasion of his fourth cap.

Frawley joins fellow potential debutants Tom Stewart and Calvin Nash among the replacements.

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        Jack Crowley starts for Ireland against Italy amid push for fly-half spot at World Cup

Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale celebrates scoring his side’s fifth try of the game during the Summer Series match at the Aviva back in July 2021

Head coach Andy Farrell has named an experimental XV for the first of the Six Nations champions’ three warm-up matches, with lock Iain Henderson taking on captaincy duties from Sexton.

Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale will end his two-year wait for an international appearance with an opportunity on the left wing, while veteran Keith Earls wins his first cap since last summer’s series success in New Zealand on the right.

Centre Robbie Henshaw and back-rowers Caelan Doris and Ryan Baird are the only players retained from the XV which began Ireland’s Grand Slam-clinching win over England in March.

The matchday squad is peppered with fringe players hoping to force their way into Farrell’s final 33-man selection for France.

Lock Joe McCarthy makes his first international start, joining Henderson in the second row, with prop Dave Kilcoyne packing down alongside Ulster pair Rob Herring and Tom O’Toole.

Jack Conan will begin at number eight for only the third time since the 2022 Six Nations, in between fellow Leinster men Doris and Baird.

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Stuart McCloskey has been picked at inside centre, with Jimmy O’Brien selected at full-back as he seeks to provide competition for undisputed first choice Hugo Keenan.

Sexton, who will also miss the upcoming games against England and Samoa, was the sole member of Ireland’s 42-man squad unavailable for the Aviva Stadium encounter.

Crowley’s only previous start came in last autumn’s win over Australia when he stepped in at the 11th hour following the late withdrawal of Ireland’s 38-year-old skipper.

Byrne was the favoured deputy to Leinster team-mate Sexton during the Six Nations but must wait for his first action of the summer.

Experienced props Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong, Munster lock Tadhg Beirne and rookie Connacht pair Cian Prendergast and Caolin Blade complete the bench.