Sunday 24 February 2019

Luke Fitzgerald in new look midfield as Paul O'Connell set for Irish finale on home soil

Cian Treacy

Joe Schmidt has handed Luke Fitzgerald a chance to impress at outside centre after he paired the Leinster flyer alongside Robbie Henshaw in a new look midfield to play Wales on Saturday.

Fitzgerald last played at 13 for Ireland from bench against New Zealand two years ago and although he has featured more prominently on the wing since his return from injury, Schmidt is eager to access his options before naming his final 31-man squad on Sunday.

Having impressed from the bench against Scotland last time out, Connacht’s Nathan White is handed his first start for Ireland and with Marty Moore still struggling with a foot injury, he will be desperate to impress.

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Wexford native Tadhg Furlong will provide tighthead cover from the bench and is set to make his Test debut.

Paul O’Connell captains the side for what will be his final appearance for his country on home soil.

Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton are paired at half-back. Keith Earls will be looking to continue his good form while on the opposite wing, Dave Kearney needs a good performance to force his way in.

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Iain Henderson gets another start at second-row while a formidable looking back-row is made up of Peter O’Mahony, Jordi Murphy and Jamie Heaslip.

There is no place in the match day squad for Ulster pair Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe while Moore and Cian Healy miss out through injury.

Ireland XV to play Wales: R Kearney; D Kearney, L Fitzgerald, R Henshaw, K Earls; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Strauss, N White; I Henderson, P O’Connell (c); P O’Mahony, J Murphy, J Heaslip. Reps: S Cronin, D Kilcoyne, T Furlong, D Ryan, S O’Brien, E Reddan, P Jackson, F Jones.

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