Wales v Ireland: Jamie Heaslip back in battle of the 'war-rooms'
JAMIE HEASLIP is set to be restored to the Ireland line-up for Saturday's crunch Six Nations clash against Wales but Joe Schmidt is otherwise expected to stick with the side that beat England two weeks ago when he names his team today.
The No 8 has overcome three cracked vertebrae against France a month ago to return to the side at the expense of Jordi Murphy, while Johnny Sexton, Sean O'Brien and Jared Payne are expected to be passed fit to start the game.
An Ireland win at the Millennium Stadium will keep their Grand Slam dreams alive with one game to go, while Wales can put themselves in pole position for the title if they can defeat the champions. Welsh legend Shane Williams believes the game will be won in the "war-rooms" of coaches Warren Gatland and Schmidt before kick-off.
"Sometimes games are won and lost in the war-room. Warren Gatland certainly knows Joe Schmidt is a good tactician and Warren has got his work cut out, he really has," he said.
"Man for man and for physicality, they're very evenly matched. The strengths of both teams are very evenly managed. Sometimes it's just a tactical arm wrestle and I think that's going to be the case on Saturday.
"Ireland have been the better team at tactically working teams out, choking teams - not only in the choke tackle, but they seem to be choking teams into submission at the moment and playing the style of rugby that suits Ireland.
"If Ireland manipulate Wales into playing the way Ireland want to play on Saturday, it's going to be an easy Irish victory. It makes for a great game. When you put the two teams together, you have no idea who is going to win. There's a lot of pressure on Sexton and Dan Biggar and obviously Rhys Webb and Conor Murray which is going to be a great match-up on Saturday. Whichever combination works the best will win."
Ireland (Probable v Wales) - R Kearney; T Bowe, J Payne, R Henshaw, S Zebo; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, M Ross; D Toner, P O'Connell (capt); P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, J Heaslip. Reps: S Cronin, C Healy, I Henderson, J Murphy, E Reddan, I Madigan, F Jones.