British and Irish Lions centre Robbie Henshaw gets his first start for Ireland since recovering from a foot injury in their final November Test against Argentina on Sunday.
The 28-year-old partners Garry Ringrose with Andy Farrell making four changes to the starting XV that lined-out for the impressive 29-20 win over New Zealand last Saturday.
Farrell said he and the players have already put behind them the win over the All Blacks and are fully focussed on rounding off their year by beating the Pumas to extend their winning run to eight Tests.Argentina snapped a seven-match losing streak in beating Italy last Saturday and despite their poor run Farrell is not taking them for granted.
“They will always be a dangerous side,” Farrell told reporters on Friday.
“They can be unorthodox opponents and offload he ball at unexpected moments.
“We have got to be aware of the fact they beat the best team in the world (the All Blacks last year) and they have beaten us in big matches in the past.
“They have come to Dublin mindful they have not had a result here before which should spur them on.
“We are expecting a full on battle.”
Henshaw has yet to play this season even for his province Leinster but Farrell has no concerns about him being ring rusty having performed well in training.
“In my experience world class players generally can come back in without too much game time,” said Farrell.
“He has been in and around camp and he has looked great in training in past few days.
“I think he will add to the performance.”
Henshaw replaces Bundee Aki — who has “two painful knees and deserves a rest” according to Farrell — whilst Munster duo fly-half Joey Carbery and scrum-half Conor Murray come in for the injured Johnny Sexton and Jamison Gibson Park respectively.
Murray for so long Sexton’s partner has had to play second fiddle to New Zealand-born Gibson Park in the 60-5 rout of Japan and then the All Blacks Test.
“Conor has been fantastic,” said Farrell.
“He has been great round the camp and really helpful and supportive to Jamison. He is champing at the bit for Sunday.”
Robert Baloucoune, 24, starts instead of Andrew Conway on the wing with James Lowe — perhaps Ireland’s most improved player with outstanding displays against Japan and the All Blacks — starting his third successive match on the other wing.
“Robert is a quiet type of chap and goes about his business in the right way,” said Farrell.
“The potential is there for all to see.
“He is unorthodox in his play and also very quick and has a natural feel for the game.”
James Ryan will captain the side in the absence of Sexton.
Hugo Keenan; Robert Baloucoune, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Jack Conan; Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris; James Ryan (capt), Iain Henderson; Tadhg Furlong, Ronan Kelleher, Andrew Porter
Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Tom O’Toole, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony, Craig Casey, Harry Byrne, Keith Earls
Coach: Andy Farrell (ENG)