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Aussie-born Hansen gets first Ireland World Cup start


Australia-born Mack Hansen has been restored to Ireland's starting XV among a swag of changes for their Rugby World Cup clash with Tonga in Nantes.

Halfback Conor Murray, hooker Ronan Kelleher and flanker Josh van der Flier have also been recalled for Saturday's (Sunday AEST) clash following last weekend's 82-8 thrashing of Pool B minnows Romania.

Johnny Sexton will captain a strong team at Stade de La Beaujoire, just seven days before Ireland take on defending champions South Africa.

Coach Andy Farrell has resisted temptation to rest the influential 38-year-old, who needs just nine more points to equal Ronan O'Gara's national record of 1083.

Hansen made a 20-minute cameo during the victorious curtain-raiser in Bordeaux, having initially been a surprise omission from Farrell's opening match-day 23 despite being fit.

The 25-year-old's late elevation to a bench spot for his 17th Test cap followed Robbie Henshaw's withdrawal ahead of kick-off due to a minor hamstring issue.

Centre Henshaw will start on the bench for Tonga, who are coached by former Wallabies No.8 Toutai Kefu.

The world's top-ranked nation are seeking to extend their record winning streak to 15 matches.

"(There's a) bit of continuity from last week but it's a different game, a different challenge, Tonga," Farrell said.

"Respecting the opposition is absolutely at the forefront of our mind."

The Ireland coach said the points on offer against Tonga were valuable  and he had no intention of holding back his players.

"We'd like to go with what we've got - a fit side, a good side, and build momentum through the competition."

Meanwhile, Kefu has dropped captain and Tonga's most experienced player, Sonatane Takulua, to the reserves for the first time since July 2015.

Augustine Pulu is the new halfback; one of four former New Zealand players in the starting line-up for the 'Ikale Tahi's opening match.

He will partner William Havili in the halves while former New Zealand under-20s tighthead prop Ben Tameifuna is the new captain.

He makes up a massive front row weighing in a 387kg, alongside loosehead Siegfried Fisi'ihoi and hooker Paula Ngauamo.

"Scrum time will be huge for us, we're going to have a crack," Tameifuna said.

"The game starts up front."

Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe, Johnny Sexton (c), Conor Murray, Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan, Peter O'Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris: Res: Rob Herring, David Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Ryan Baird, Craig Casey, Ross Byrne, Robbie Henshaw.

Tonga: Charles Piutau, Afusipa Taumoepeau, Malakai Fekitoa, Pita Ahki, Solomone Kata, William Havili, Augustine Pulu; Vaea Vifita, Sione Talitui, Tanginoa Halaifonua, Leva Fifita, Sam Lousi, Ben Tameifuna (c), Paula Ngauamo, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi. Reserves: Sam Moli, Tau Koloamatangi, Sosefo Apikotoa, Semisi Paea, Solomone Funaki, Sione Vailanu, Sonatane Takulua, Fine Inisi.