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Dublin: 15 °C Wednesday 26 September, 2018
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Furlong and Henderson ruled out as Schmidt names his Ireland team for Wales

Andrew Porter is set for his first Six Nations start in one of five changes to the XV.

ANDREW PORTER’S FAST-TRACKED development into an international-quality tighthead will hit another significant marker this weekend when he makes his first Six Nations start in Ireland’s eagerly-anticipated clash with Wales [KO 2.15pm, TV3].

Andrew Porter Andrew Porter starts for Ireland. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The 22-year-old Leinster prop will deputise for the the injured Tadhg Furlong who has failed to shake off the hamstring issue he sustained in the round two win over Italy in time.

Not only does Joe Schmidt have to contend with the loss of two Lions in Furlong and Robbie Henshaw, but the Ireland head coach is also without Iain Henderson who, despite positive signals over his fitness earlier in the week, misses out with tightness in his quad and hamstring.

Porter made a big impact off the bench in the victory over Italy a fortnight ago and is set to win his fifth cap having been preferred to Munster’s John Ryan, while James Ryan returns to the second row to partner Leinster team-mate Devin Toner.

As expected, Chris Farrell comes in to replace the injured Robbie Henshaw in the Irish midfield alongside Bundee Aki with Schmidt making five changes in total from the win over Conor O’Shea’s Azzurri.

In the front row, Cian Healy gets the nod at loosehead with Jack McGrath having to settle for a place on the bench while CJ Stander returns at number eight in place of Jack Conan.

With Jordan Larmour and Andrew Conway released to play for Leinster and Munster respectively this weekend, Fergus McFadden returns to the number 23 jersey while Joey Carbery and Kieran Marmion are the other replacement backs.

Garry Ringrose is fit again and having trained with Ireland at Carton House on Tuesday has returned to Leinster for tomorrow night’s Pro14 clash with the Southern Kings.

Porter’s promotion to the number three jersey ahead of Ryan, who came off the bench in Paris, is another indication of Schmidt’s forward-planning with the 2019 World Cup now very much part of his thinking.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt has made five changes. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ryan is perhaps unfortunate to miss out but having lost his place in the Munster team for European games to Stephen Archer, coupled with Porter’s powerful shift against Italy, the selection of the former St Andrew’s College man comes as little surprise.

While his scrummaging technique will be placed under firm examination by Warren Gatland’s Wales, highly-rated Porter has been in impressive form recently and his dynamism and ball-carrying ability will go some way to offsetting the significant loss of Furlong.

The same can be said about Leinster’s Ryan in the second row, who will have considerable boots to fill but has all the skill sets required — as evidenced in Paris — to slot in seamlessly beside Toner.

Connacht’s Quinn Roux provides the second row cover from the bench, with McGrath, Sean Cronin and Conan all likely to be unleashed at various stages on Saturday afternoon.

Ireland have gone three games without a win against Wales in the Six Nations, but Schmidt’s side have not lost at home in the championship since England came to Dublin and won 12-6 back in 2013.

Ireland:

15. Rob Kearney
14. Keith Earls
13. Chris Farrell
12. Bundee Aki
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Andrew Porter
4. James Ryan
5. Devin Toner
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Dan Leavy
8. CJ Stander

Replacements:

16. Sean Cronin
17. Jack McGrath
18. John Ryan
19. Quinn Roux
20. Jack Conan
21. Kieran Marmion
22. Joey Carbery
23. Fergus McFadden.

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