JOE SCHMIDT IS set to hand Josh van der Flier and Stuart McCloskey their international debuts in Saturday’s Six Nations clash with England at Twickenham.
22-year-old openside flanker van der Flier has been in exceptional form all season for Leinster, racking up three starts in the Champions Cup and a total of 14 impactful appearances.
With Sean O’Brien ruled out for the rest of the Six Nations due to a hamstring injury, Schmidt is set to task van der Flier with bringing breakdown nous and dynamism to Saturday’s contest in London.
Meanwhile, Schmidt is waiting for a final, definitive call on the fitness of outside centre Jared Payne, but at this point it is thought he is unlikely to feature.
23-year-old McCloskey is set to come into the midfield if his Ulster teammate is ruled out with the hamstring injury he suffered against France.
McCloskey’s inclusion for his Test debut would likely mean Robbie Henshaw moving to the 13 shirt for Ireland.
Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton are set to continue their halfback partnership, while Keith Earls, Andrew Trimble and Rob Kearney look likely to form the back three as Simon Zebo provides bench cover.
Read more on the 42.