Andy Farrell has backed Josh van der Flier to make a significant impact after being included in the Ireland back-row for the 2021 Six Nations opener against Wales.

The Leinster flanker was drafted into the starting team after provincial team-mate Caelan Doris was ruled out of Sunday's trip to the Principality Stadium.

The move sees CJ Stander move to number eight, while Peter O'Mahony will be stationed on the blindside.

Van Der Flier, who will collect his 29th Test cap, started the first three games of the Farrell era early last year but played a peripheral part in the autumn campaign.

But the Ireland head coach has backed the mild-mannered Leinster man to plug a sizeable gap on Sunday.

"Just because he's a quiet character, doesn't mean he hasn't got the intent or the physicality that everyone sees from someone who is flamboyant or boisterous on the field," Farrell said.

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"He gets the job done really well and we're super excited to see Josh get his chance and show everyone what he's about.

"In a lot of the big games that we've played over the last five years, he's been an integral part of that." 

While individual battles will be key in Wales, Farrell added that an all-round display was crucial in setting the tone for Ireland's tournament.

"Starting off a competition well is key, getting the victory in the Six Nations is key. This is a competition that everyone wants to win at the start," he said.

"The main thing for us is about the continuity of our performance, getting all of our bits right and making sure they all come together in the right format.

"Having a proper intent and showing our want to try and win this competition right from the get-go is key for us."

Follow Wales v Ireland (kick-off 3pm) on Sunday via our live blog on RTE.ie and the News app or listen live on RTÉ Radio 1's Sunday Sport. Highlights on Against the Head, Monday at 8.10pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.

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