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Expect Johnny Sexton to get 30 minutes with Ross Byrne running the week | WEDNESDAY NIGHT RUGBY

Andy Farrell will make a few rotational changes for Tonga, which will see captain Johnny Sexton come on off the bench, according to The Independent's Ruaidhri O'Connor.

Andy Farrell will make a few rotational changes for Tonga, which will see captain Johnny Sexton come on off the bench, according to The Independent's Ruaidhri O'Connor.

Ireland put Romania to the sword in their World Cup opener on Saturday, with a massive 82-8 victory. It was a heavily-loaded Irish team that took the field in Bordeaux, with captain Johnny Sexton making his long-anticipated return to action for the first time since March.

With that big win under their belts, Ireland can now afford to rotate their squad quite heavily going into Tonga on Saturday, even though the Pacific Islanders will be a far tougher challenge than the Romanians were.

However, with Sexton having no game time since beating England in the Six Nations, the temptation to start him against Tonga is strong, especially with the reigning World Champions on the horizon a week later.

In spite of this, though, speaking on Wednesday Night Rugby Ruaidhri O'Connor believes the Irish captain will likely get no more than 30 minutes off the bench in Nantes, as will a host of first choice starters.

"I've always had the sense that this week would mirror the Samoa week," O'Connor said. "They would play the team that played against England, and then they would rotate in a very similar way to the team that played against Samoa.

"Farrell said a lot that week about mirroring the first two weeks in France. I though selection would go along that way, and I still kind of do, although there's a growing sense here that he's going to go very strong."

Ross Byrne has to be given the week

Ireland will take the most benefit out of the pool stages if Ross Byrne was given the opportunity to run the week leading up to the test match, and starts on the Saturday, according to O'Connor.

With only South Africa and Scotland remaining in the pool stages after Tonga, the only opportunity for Byrne to run the week would be now, as Sexton will be needed for those two tough tests.

"I would imagine that the plan is to start Ross Byrne, to give him the week, and to bring Sexton off the bench," O'Connor said.

"I think Ross Byrne needs that week. If Sexton goes down, having him have run a week at the World Cup will be very valuable. It does seem like he's the next man in if Sexton goes down."

"Sexton was always going to be involved this week," O'Connor added. "I think it would be a strong side without being the team that played against Romania.

"Some of those players, maybe the ones that came off early in James Ryan and Caelan Doris will be involved. I think you get Ryan Baird in there. You probably play the second choice front row.

"You give [Andrew] Porter and [Tadhg] Furlong the bench job so they're not playing 50-60 minutes going into the Springbok game, where both of them are going to play 80 or close to it.

For O'Connor, the Tonga test will more closely resemble preparations for South Africa, for which the majority of their squad will need to be fresh. This is why there will be a host of changes to the side that thumped Romania.

"I think there's sense in some rotation," O'Connor said. "I think there's sense in Sexton coming off the bench, being there in case things go wrong as they did in Bayonne.

"I think he's going to stack his bench with starters, and they're going to get 20-30 minutes under their belts, and they'll be fresh for South Africa."

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