Jordi Murphy comes into Irish rugby team to replace Jamie Heaslip

Jordi Murphy is coming in for Heaslip

Jordi Murphy is coming in for Heaslip

Jordi Murphy will start Sunday’s Ireland-England Six Nations clash at the Aviva Stadium in place of the injured Jamie Heaslip.

The inclusion of Murphy at No 8 is the only change made by National coach Joe Schmidt from the team that started a fortnight ago in the win against France.

Jack McGrath keeps his place at prop, even though Cian Healy has had another two weeks of training and preparation with the Irish squad.

Centres Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw get another opportunity to grow their partnership and Jonny Sexton is named at out-half after the eye injury, sustained against the French, cleared up.

Ireland team to face England in the RBS 6 Nations match in Dublin on Saturday:

R Kearney (Leinster), T Bowe, J Payne (both Ulster), R Henshaw (Connacht), S Zebo (Munster), J Sexton (Racing Metro), C Murray (Munster), J McGrath (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross, D Toner (both Leinster), P O'Connell (capt), P O'Mahony (both Munster), S O'Brien, J Murphy (both Leinster).

Replacements: S Cronin, C Healy, M Moore (all Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), T O'Donnell (Munster), E Reddan, I Madigan (both Leinster), F Jones (Munster).

Davis Love excited by Ryder Cup challenge

Davis Love re-appointed as US Ryder Cup captain

Davis Love re-appointed as US Ryder Cup captain

Newly-appointed captain Davis Love believes a new team ethic from top to bottom can help the United States reverse their recent trend of poor results in the Ryder Cup.

Love was appointed for a second time on Tuesday as the Americans look to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat to Europe at Hazeltine in 2016.

The 50-year-old was in charge in 2012 when the Europeans produced the 'Miracle at Medinah' to turn a 10-4 deficit into a 14.5-13.5 victory but it was last year's 16.5-11.5 defeat at Gleneagles that prompted much soul searching in the American ranks.

An 11-man task force was formed made up of PGA executives, former captains – including Love – and current players including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to plot a new way forward for America in the biennial contest.

The result of its work is a new six-man Ryder Cup committee with responsibility for selecting future captains and vice-captains and a "wide array of matters related to the Ryder Cup", along with an altered qualification points system and calendar.

But Love believes it is the new spirit of togetherness created by the process that will provide dividends, beginning in 2016 when he goes head-to-head with European counterpart and friend Darren Clarke.

"I'm here with the same goal I had in 2012 but not as the same captain," he said. "The Ryder Cup task force has been an open, honest, team-building experience.

"The collaborative effort of so many veterans of the Ryder Cup is a result of the passion and commitment to build a team structure that will lay the groundwork for future teams.

"It's a new business model, a new team-building model that comes from being given an opportunity by the PGA of America to come together and use all of our veteran experience to build a new team culture and a consistent plan for the future.

"Why the shift now, and not after 2010 or 2012? Simply, we want to win.

"What we created is a new process for continuity and teamwork which will prepare us for many years of success.

"So 2016 will be a collaborative effort of many individuals from the task force, past Ryder Cup captains, veteran players of the Ryder Cup to create the best environment for our team to be totally prepared to compete at Hazeltine National."

The new sense of togetherness comes after Mickelson's public criticism of 2014 captain Tom Watson immediately after the defeat in Scotland.

The five-time major winner admitted that an overhaul of the process was not necessarily what he had in mind on that Sunday afternoon but he was excited about the future.

"To get everybody together, to have an opportunity to have a voice and be heard and to actually make an impact and have a difference; it's exciting for everybody here," he said.

"It's really a positive step and as we look long term over the next 10 Ryder Cups, over the next two decades.

"I think it's exciting, what we are trying to lay down here this upcoming Ryder Cup and the input that is being taken in by Davis, by all different parties, and implemented as kind of a blueprint or foundation for the upcoming multiple Ryder Cups, not just this next one, is exciting for the generations to follow."

Love announced that 2006 captain Tom Lehman will serve as one his vice captains, with the PGA of America confirming the 1996 Open champion would be joined by another former captain and two "individuals with extensive Ryder Cup experience".

Jordi Murphy can handle England’s power

Jordi Murphy faces a big task against England

Jordi Murphy faces a big task against England

Jordi Murphy can handle the “huge physicality” of England’s back-row in Sunday’s pivotal RBS 6 Nations showdown in Dublin, according to Ireland team-mate Peter O’Mahony.

Loose forward Murphy is primed to step in at number eight for Ireland, with Jamie Heaslip recuperating from the back injury inflicted by Pascal Pape's knee in the 18-11 victory over France on Valentine's Day.

Leinster back-rower Murphy is expected to start against England in Heaslip's absence, and his selection case has been strengthened by Tommy O'Donnell still battling the after-effects of concussion.

Munster captain O'Mahony and Leinster's Sean O'Brien will add experience and steel around the talented but green six-cap Leinster star Murphy when the Six Nations' two unbeaten sides slug it out at the Aviva Stadium.

O'Mahony believes 23-year-old Murphy has all the credentials to cope with England's bullish back-row trio of James Haskell, Chris Robshaw and Billy Vunipola.

"Jordi is a quality player: he's well rounded, well able to carry hard and do the grunt-work, but he's got a good set of skills," said O'Mahony.

"He's got a lovely pass and he's a good lineout option: he's a quality all-rounded player.

"England are a hugely physical side and that always starts with your pack. Guys like Haskell have brought a huge physicality to what they do. Vunipola, guys like (Dave) Atwood are really stepping up to the mark.

"They are physical guys: they are always looking to get them on the front foot. Whenever England are on the front foot, it stems from their pack."

Back-rower O'Donnell suffered a concussion in Munster's 25-25 Pro12 draw with the Scarlets on Saturday, and is progressing through the raft of testing required to be cleared for action.

Murphy was most likely front of the queue to replace the injured vice-captain Heaslip in any case, and O'Donnell's continued concussion wrangles could clear his selection path.

Murphy made a late cameo off the bench in Ireland's 13-10 defeat to England at Twickenham in last season's Six Nations, the last time head coach Joe Schmidt's men have suffered a loss.

Ireland can equal their all-time record with a 10th consecutive victory this weekend, and O'Mahony believes 23-year-old Murphy is a different player a year on from that Twickenham defeat.

"I think he has come on since then: he's developed hugely," said O'Mahony.

"The more experience and game time he is getting between Leinster and Ireland over the last couple of weeks, you can do nothing but develop."

Ireland have retained 31-year-old Heaslip in their squad despite the 70-cap number eight being unable to face England.

The Leinster stalwart could yet miss the rest of the tournament after suffering three fractured vertebrae from lock Pape's crude knee to his back, that landed the France veteran a 10-week ban.

Ireland have called Ulster's Roger Wilson and Munster's Billy Holland into their 36-man training squad as they step up preparations to host England at the weekend.

England will travel to Dublin still buoyed by their 21-16 opening-weekend win against Wales in Cardiff.

Captain Chris Robshaw imposed his authority off the field and on it that night, waving away Wales' late arrival to the pitch before strong-arming the hosts' much-vaunted back-row.

Ireland's bullish blindside O'Mahony admitted Schmidt's men are well aware of the influence the Harlequins talisman exerts over Stuart Lancaster's side.

"I think he's a quality player," said O'Mahony of the England skipper.

"He's been certainly in the forefront of what England have done over the last three weeks.

Fernando Alonso making a "solid recovery" in hospital

Photo of Alonso recovering in hospital has been released

Photo of Alonso recovering in hospital has been released

Fernando Alonso is making a “solid recovery” following a heavy crash during testing on Sunday, McLaren have announced.

Alonso spent the night in hospital after his McLaren-Honda left the track and hit a wall side-on at turn three of the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona.

The Spaniard remained conscious and able to speak to doctors after the incident, but he was concussed and airlifted to hospital for precautionary checks, including CT and MRI scans.

A McLaren statement on Monday read: "We are pleased to confirm that, having been involved in an on-track incident at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya (Spain) on February 22nd, Fernando Alonso is making a solid recovery in hospital, and is chatting to family, friends and hospital staff."

It continued: "In order to provide the privacy and tranquillity required to facilitate a peaceful recuperation, he is being kept in hospital for further observation, and to recover from the effects of the medication that successfully managed his routine sedation yesterday.

"We intend to give him every opportunity to make a rapid and complete recovery, and will evaluate in due course whether or not he will participate in the next Barcelona test."

The final pre-season test takes place in Barcelona from February 26 to March 1.

McLaren have carried out tests on Alonso's car and insist the crash was not caused by mechanical failure.

"Our findings indicate that the accident was caused by the unpredictably gusty winds at that part of the circuit at that time, and which had affected other drivers similarly (eg, Carlos Sainz Jnr)," McLaren said.

"We can categorically state that there is no evidence that indicates that Fernando's car suffered mechanical failure of any kind."

The incident occurred on the final day of the Formula One pre-season test, with the new campaign due to begin in Australia on March 15.

Alonso's manager Luis Garcia Abad told the Spanish media he "doesn't think there will be any problems" with regard to the two-time world champion making the start line in Melbourne and he also denied reports that Alonso had been feeling dizzy prior to the crash.

"I deny that Fernando was feeling unwell prior to the incident," he said. "The car had grip, there was tremendous wind and he went into the wall, the rest is speculation.

"The car telemetry has stated that he was correcting from left to right. Fernando was hitting the brake and changing gears until the moment of impact."

France forward Pascal Pape has been suspended for 10 weeks

Pape gets lengthy ban for Heaslip incident

Pape gets lengthy ban for Heaslip incident

France forward Pascal Pape has been suspended for 10 weeks and will miss the rest of the RBS 6 Nations after he kneed Jamie Heaslip in the back during last Saturday’s game against Ireland.

Pape, who has a right of appeal, was cited under Law 10.4 (a) and appeared in front of a disciplinary panel together with France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Wednesday.

Referee Wayne Barnes issued Pape with a yellow card during the match but the disciplinary committee decided it was an act of foul play which merited a red card and "should be categorised at the top end of World Rugby's scale of seriousness".

Law 10.4 (a) forbids a player from punching or striking an opponent and Pape could have been banned for up to 15 weeks.

His punishment was, however, reduced given what the committee referred to as "the player's admission of foul play and his expression of remorse for what had occurred".

The lock issued an apology on Tuesday via social media to Heaslip, who damaged three vertebrae in the incident and will miss Ireland's next game against England.

@pascalpape thanks for your message. It's a physical game that we play and these things happen. I fully accept your apology.

— jamie heaslip (@jamieheaslip) February 17, 2015

Pape's suspension represents a blow for France, who lost 18-11 in Dublin and are now third in the table after two matches played.