Thursday 22 February 2018

Joe Schmidt to keep the faith with same XV for Wales clash

Garry Ringrose in action for Ireland
Garry Ringrose in action for Ireland
Jared Payne and (inset) Garry Ringrose
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

JOE SCHMIDT looks set to keep faith in the starting XV who beat France two weeks ago when he names his team to face Wales at lunch-time tomorrow.

With Jared Payne still chasing fitness after a long absence, the likelihood is that the only change to the match-day 23 will come on the bench where Andrew Trimble misses out with a hand injury.

Craig Gilroy and Andrew Conway are in the running to fill the No 23 jersey in the Ulsterman's absence, but otherwise Schmidt is expected to show faith in the players who earned four points at the Aviva Stadium. Payne could feature, but his inclusion looks unlikely.

Rob Kearney was the main injury doubt to emerge from the 19-9 win but he has recovered from his groin problem and will be named in the team if he comes through training at Carton House tomorrow morning unscathed.

He'll be joined in the back-three by Keith Earls and Simon Zebo, with Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw in the centre while Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray will again link-up at half-back.

Up front, there may be some temptation to rotate Jack McGrath and Cian Healy for the final two games, but otherwise it should be as you were with Rory Best captaining the side alongside Tadhg Furlong.

Schmidt is unlikely to break up his second-row pairing of Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner, while the dynamic back-row combination of CJ Stander, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heasip will be retained with Iain Henderson and Peter O'Mahony providing cover.

Wales will name their team this morning, with speculation mounting that Luke Charteris will come in for Jake Ball in the second-row, while Taulupe Faletau could replace Justin Tipuric with Ross Moriarty shifting to blindside.

Although there have been widespread calls for further change after successive defeats, it appears likely that Rob Howley will stick with the likes of George North and Dan Biggar despite the claims of Steff Evans and Sam Davies.

Possible Ireland team to face Wales: R Kearney; K Earls, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, S Zebo; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best (capt), T Furlong; D Ryan, D Toner; CJ Stander, S O'Brien, J Heaslip. Reps: N Scannell, C Healy, J Ryan, I Henderson, P O'Mahony, K Marmion, P Jackson, C Gilroy/A Conway.

Possible Wales team: L Halfpenny; L Williams, J Davies, S Williams, G North; D Biggar, R Webb; S Evans, K Owens, T Francis; L Charteris, AW Jones (capt); R Moriarty, S Warburton, T Faletau.

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