Tadhg Beirne to make Ireland Six Nations debut against Wales
Last Updated: 15/03/19 5:17am
Tadhg Beirne will make his Six Nations debut for Ireland against Grand Slam-chasing Wales on Saturday while Rob Kearney and Sean O'Brien return to the starting line-up.
Munster forward Beirne, who spent two years in Wales with the Scarlets, starts at lock in place of the injured Iain Henderson.
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt is backing the 27-year-old to shine on his return to Welsh soil.
"He probably would have liked to have had a bit more game time leading into it but it's just a case of slotting people in," said Schmidt.
"That's been a really positive challenge for us throughout the Six Nations, to still try to get some cohesion.
"I think he knows these players pretty well. He's played pretty often against the second rows. He knows his Scarlets team-mates very well.
"With that combination I do think he's as ready as we can get him to be at this stage. And I know he's incredibly motivated to be as ready as he can be."
Schmidt has named O'Brien at openside after omitting him from the team that registered a bonus-point win over France. He replaces Josh van der Flier, who is ruled out with a groin issue.
Kearney has shaken off a calf complaint and returns at full-back for his 90th cap, with Jordan Larmour dropping to the bench.
Jack Carty continues to provide fly-half cover as Joey Carbery remains sidelined with a hamstring issue, and his Connacht team-mates Quinn Roux and Kieran Marmion are also named among the replacements.
Ireland captain Rory Best, who scored the opening try against France, will make his final Six Nations appearance.
Ireland need to win in Cardiff and hope England fail to beat Scotland in order to retain their title.
Wales have named an unchanged team after full-back Liam Williams was passed fit.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray; 1 Cian Healy, 2 Rory Best (c), 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 5 James Ryan, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 7 Sean O'Brien, 8 CJ Stander.
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Jordan Larmour.