big calls

Beirne set to start against Wales as O'Brien makes return for Ireland

The Munster second row could make his Six Nations debut in Cardiff on Saturday.

JOE SCHMIDT IS set to name Tadhg Beirne in his starting team to face Wales in the closing round of the Six Nations on Saturday.

The Munster second row hasn’t featured in this year’s championship yet, having missed the first two rounds with a knee injury.

However, it appears that 27-year-old Beirne could make his Six Nations debut and win his fifth Ireland cap against Wales, with Iain Henderson believed to be struggling with an injury issue.

Tadhg Beirne Beirne has won four Ireland caps so far. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Schmidt is expected to name a relatively settled team for the clash with Warren Gatland’s Grand Slam-seeking Wales, although an injury to Josh van der Flier is likely to see the experienced Sean O’Brien return at openside flanker.

O’Brien was omitted from the matchday squad for last weekend’s win over France and would be highly motivated to make a big impact if recalled by Schmidt.

Rob Kearney, who missed last weekend’s victory with calf tightness, is set to return at fullback but Ireland could be unchanged otherwise.

Cian Healy, captain Rory Best, and Tadhg Furlong are set to be retained in the front row, as James Ryan seems likely to continue in the second row alongside Beirne. It is understood that Ulster’s Henderson, who started against France, may be ruled out of Saturday’s clash.

Peter O’Mahony, O’Brien and CJ Stander could make up the back row, while Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton seem likely to continue as the halfbacks.

With Robbie Henshaw still out injured, Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose are favourites to start in midfield, while Jacob Stockdale and Keith Earls are expected to be retained on the wings.

Schmidt is set to officially name his matchday 23 on Thursday afternoon.

Possible Ireland team v Wales:

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 (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Tadhg Beirne
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Sean O’Brien
8. CJ Stander

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