Furlong returns as Ireland ring the changes for Scotland Six Nations clash

The Ireland prop Tadhg Furlong will make his first appearance of this year’s Six Nations in Sunday’s fixture with Scotland.

The captain, Johnny Sexton, and centre Garry Ringrose, who sat out the round-three win in Italy, will also start at Murrayfield as part of six personnel changes after overcoming respective groin and calf injuries. The hooker Dan Sheehan, flanker Peter O’Mahony and scrum-half Conor Murray are the other men restored to Andy Farrell’s starting XV.

Robbie Henshaw and Jamison Gibson-Park are in line for first Test outings since the autumn after being named on the bench.

The world’s top-ranked nation travel to Edinburgh top of the championship table thanks to successive bonus-point wins over Wales, France and Italy.

Furlong’s return to fitness following a calf problem is a timely boost for head coach Farrell after the deputy prop Finlay Bealham sustained a tournament-ending knee injury in the 34-20 victory in Rome. The British and Irish Lions tighthead has not played a competitive game since 3 December.

Scrum-half Gibson-Park was set to start Ireland’s round-one win in Wales before withdrawing before kick-off due to a hamstring injury. The New Zealand-born player has to remain patient as Murray has been preferred in the No 9 role this weekend, with Craig Casey dropping out of the matchday squad after making his first championship start at the Stadio Olimpico.

Henshaw has endured an injury-hit spell but is fit and available to provide midfield back-up for Bundee Aki and Ringrose following wrist surgery.

Jack Dempsey will make his first Six Nations start for Scotland on Sunday after Gregor Townsend made two just changes to his starting XV. Lock Jonny Gray is the other player added to the team, with Hamish Watson dropping to the bench and Grant Gilchrist suspended after his red card in the last match away to France.

Dempsey made his Scotland debut in the autumn after a recent change in world rugby’s eligibility rules allowed the Glasgow Warriors player to switch allegiance from his native Australia. The 28-year-old will wear the No 8 jersey, with Matt Fagerson moving to fill the flanker position vacated by Watson.

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There are no changes among the backs, meaning full-back Stuart Hogg will win his 100th cap.

Among the replacements, Scott Cummings is included in the 23-man squad for the first time in this championship after recovering from injury, while Chris Harris is on the bench after being left out altogether against France.

The Guardian