Earls to captain Ireland for first time against Maori All Blacks

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Keith Earls will captain Ireland for the first time when Andy Farrell's side face the Maori All Blacks in Wellington on Tuesday.

The Maoris eased to a 32-17 victory in the first warm-up meeting before Ireland responded to a comprehensive Test defeat against New Zealand by defeating the All Blacks away from home for the first time.

That teed up a winner-takes-all decider at the Sky Stadium on Saturday but Ireland clash with the Maoris once more before the Test series decider against New Zealand.

Farrell previously hinted at rotation to offer his second-string side valuable minutes on the tour, and he has made just three changes to his last team that lost to the Maoris in Hamilton.

Stuart McCloskey comes into midfield to partner Earls, who is Ireland's second-highest try scorer of all time, while Michael Lowry is another introduction at full-back.

The start for Lowry means Jimmy O'Brien will move to the left wing, while forward Niall Scannell replaces the concussed Dave Heffernan.

Jeremy Loughman has also been named in the starting side despite suffering concussion in the first meeting just two weeks ago, with Ed Byrne expected to make his first appearance off the bench.

Farrell hopes Ireland can find form in their warm-up against the Maoris and believes there is no player more deserving of captaining Ireland than Earls.

"For the likes of him, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, well everyone really, their attitudes have been top class and there has only been one thing on their mind and that is, 'how can we help the team-mates, how can we make the fellas who are starting in advance of them better?'," he told reporters.

"There is no more deserving man to captain Ireland against the Maoris than Keith.

"He was not as shocked as Bundee [Aki, to be named captain] but he has always been a leader, Keith, especially over the last five or six years that I have known him.

"He has always been curious about how he can learn more, such as edge defence as an example, or what more he can learn about back three play in general. He is able to get across at 13 no problem.

"He has always been one who has been able to take people with him, always one who wants to share and help. That has been at the forefront of his attitude for the last five or six years that I have known him and he will bring all that to the forefront on Tuesday night."

Ireland team: Michael Lowry; Jordan Larmour, Keith Earls, Stuart McCloskey, Jimmy O’Brien, Ciaran Frawley, Craig Casey; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, Tom O’Toole, Joe McCarthy, Kieran Treadwell, Cian Prendergast, Nick Timoney, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Ed Byrne, Finlay Bealham, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Mack Hansen.

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