Saturday 21 April 2018

Joe Schmidt makes just one change for crunch Six Nations clash with Wales

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

IRELAND's settled Six Nations will continue into Saturday's crucial clash against Wales as Joe Schmidt makes just one change to the team that beat England two weeks ago.

As revealed in this morning's Irish Independent, Jamie Heaslip has overcome his back injury to take the No8 shirt back from Jordi Murphy who drops to the bench at the expense of Tommy O'Donnell.

Ireland's head coach Joe Schmidt
Ireland's head coach Joe Schmidt

Johnny Sexton has been passed fit to play despite straining his hamstring a fortnight ago, while Sean O'Brien and Jared Payne have passed their return to play protocols after their respective concussions in the England game.

Paul O'Connell will win his 100th cap for Ireland as he leads the side, while Sexton will play for his country for the 50th time. Cian Healy will also pass the half-century mark when he comes off the bench.

The loosehead is again kept in reserve despite coming through a long shift for Leinster last weekend as he continues his return from injury and takes his place on a replacements list primed for impact.

Ireland can retain their title with victory on Saturday if England fail to beat Scotland, but the more likely scenario is that a win will set them up for a title and Grand Slam decider at Murrayfield on Saturday week.

Victory for Wales would open the race for the Six Nations back up and set up a dramatic final day.

Ireland team to face Wales: Rob Kearney; Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, S Zebo; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best, Mike Ross; Devin Toner, Paul O'Connell (capt); Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip.

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