James Lowe set to make Ireland debut in Autumn Nations Cup opener against Wales

Ireland will hand a Test debut to winger James Lowe in Friday’s Autumn Nations Cup clash with Wales as part of seven changes.

New Zealand-born Lowe is eligible for Andy Farrell’s side under residency rules after joining Leinster in 2017.

The 28-year-old trained with the national team squad ahead of last month’s Guinness Six Nations games against Italy and France and has been named on the left flank.

Leinster team-mates Jamison Gibson-Park – another player born in New Zealand – and Ronan Kelleher have been handed maiden Test starts at scrum-half and hooker respectively, while lock Iain Henderson will return from suspension.

Jacob Stockdale has retained his place at full-back, despite an unconvincing display during the costly defeat in Paris on October 31.

Head coach Farrell has also recalled back row pair Peter O’Mahony and Josh Van Der Flier, while Chris Farrell makes a first start at centre since last year’s surprise World Cup loss to Japan.

Uncapped Ulster fly-half Billy Burns has been named among the replacements, alongside experienced scrum-half Conor Murray.

Leinster hooker Ronan Kelleher, left, will make his first international start when Ireland host Wales
Leinster hooker Ronan Kelleher, left, will make his first international start when Ireland host Wales

The start of the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup comes just under a fortnight since Ireland’s Six Nations title aspirations were ended in the Stade de France.

After hosting Wayne Pivac’s side, the Irish will play World Cup finalists England at Twickenham on November 21, Georgia in Dublin eight days later, before finishing the competition at home to one of Scotland, France, Italy or Fiji on December 5.

Lowe’s inclusion comes just over a year since he described World Rugby’s residency rules as “stupid” and “weird”, while also stating it would be an “honour” to represent Ireland.

Having established himself as a key player for his province with 33 tries in 49 appearances, he completes the back three alongside under-fire fullback Stockdale and recent debutant Hugo Keenan.

  • November 13: Ireland v Wales

  • November 21: England v Ireland

  • November 29: Ireland v Georgia

  • December 5: Ireland v Fiji/France/Italy/Scotland

Munster’s Farrell will join Robbie Henshaw in midfield, with captain Johnny Sexton winning his 94th cap alongside new half-back partner Gibson-Park, whose two previous international appearances came from the bench in the recent Six Nations matches.

Kelleher returns from a thigh injury in the middle of the front row to make his fourth Test appearance, with Andrew Porter and the experienced Cian Healy either side.

Ulster captain Henderson, who has completed a three-week ban after being sent off for his province, resumes his second-row partnership with James Ryan, while Caelan Doris moves from blindside flanker to the centre of the back row, sandwiched between the returning O’Mahony and Van Der Flier.

Farrell’s experimental line-up means regulars Rob Herring, CJ Stander, Bundee Aki and Andrew Conway will be given an evening off.

Munster winger Keith Earls returns from injury to join Murray and potential-debutant Burns on the bench.