Maori All Blacks v Ireland: Earls to captain Irish as Ulster’s Lowry & McCloskey start

Maori All Blacks v Ireland: Earls to captain Irish as Ulster's Lowry & McCloskey start

Michael Lowry will make his first start of the tour at full-back

Keith Earls will captain Ireland for the first time while Ulster’s Michael Lowry and Stuart McCloskey have been named to start Tuesday’s match against the Maori All Blacks (08:05 BST).

Ulster’s Lowry makes his first start of the tour at full-back.

McCloskey, who was called into the squad as injury cover, replaces Bundee Aki at inside centre.

Head coach Andy Farrell’s team has three changes to the one that suffered a 32-17 defeat by the Maori in Hamilton on 29 June.

Leinster’s Jimmy O’Brien is switched from full-back to left wing, pushing Earls to outside centre in place of James Hume, who suffered a tour-ending groin injury in the first Maori match.

As expected, Farrell has rested his top players for Saturday’s series decider against New Zealand in Wellington.

The Ireland coach said he had no hesitation handing the captaincy to 34-year-old wing Earls, who has never led his country in a 14-year, 97-cap career.

“His standing and his status in the group are of the highest order, so that was an easy one,” said Farrell.

“It gave me a lot of pleasure asking him to do it. There’s no more deserving man to captain Ireland. He’s always been a leader, especially over the last five or six years that I’ve known him.”

Niall Scannell replaces injured hooker Dave Heffernan in the only change to the midweek forward pack while prop Jeremy Loughman will start having completed the 12-day return-to-play protocols after being concussed in the Hamilton game.

Lock Kieran Treadwell is the only starting player who was involved in Saturday’s Dunedin Test, having come off the bench late as Ireland beat New Zealand on Kiwi soil for the first time.

“These guys have had to wait for another chance and they’re busting for that,” said Farrell.

“The Maori beat us on the night and thoroughly deserved that, so it’s a chance to show how much they’ve improved.

“They’ve had time to learn all those lessons, be more disciplined, be more accurate and understand what it takes to win a big game.”

Ireland: Lowry; Larmour, Earls (capt), McCloskey, O’Brien; Frawley, Casey; Loughman, Scannell, O’Toole, McCarthy, Treadwell; Prendergast, Timoney, Coombes.

Replacements: Herring, Byrne, Bealham, Baird, Conan, Murray, Carbery, Hansen.

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