# quality
Big guns set to return as Schmidt plays strong hand for visit of Wales
Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Keith Earls are all set to start.

JOE SCHMIDT IS set to field a very strong Ireland team for Saturday’s final World Cup warm-up clash with Wales at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin [KO 2pm], with Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton guiding the side from the halfbacks.

Leinster out-half Sexton is set for his first appearance of the new season, while Murray’s opening outing against England two weeks ago only lasted 30 minutes, the Munster man having picked up a head knock in the opening half. 

jonathan-sexton Dan Sheridan / INPHO Sexton is set for his first outing of the season. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

With Schmidt keen to get more match sharpness and cohesion into his front-liners before they fly to Japan next week, captain Rory Best is due to lead the team in a powerful front row that also looks likely to include Dave Kilcoyne and Tadhg Furlong.

James Ryan is set to continue in the second row after a dominant 51-minute outing on his first appearance of the season last weekend in Cardiff, and could partner Jean Kleyn in Ireland’s locking department this time around.

The back row is set to feature both CJ Stander and Jack Conan, as long as the latter comes through training this morning, having been carrying a foot issue in recent times. Josh van der Flier is likely to line out in the number seven shirt.

A powerful-looking centre pairing of Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw would provide plenty of go-forward for Ireland, while the back three is set to see Keith Earls make his first appearance of the season after overcoming a knee issue.

Rob Kearney is expected to return at fullback, with Jacob Stockdale possibly making a third consecutive start on the left wing.

Schmidt is due to officially announce his matchday 23 to face Wales at 1.45pm today.

Possible Ireland XV (v Wales):

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

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. James Ryan
5. Jean Kleyn
6. CJ Stander
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Jack Conan

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