JOE SCHMIDT IS set to retain Garry Ringrose at outside centre in his Ireland team to face Wales on Friday night in the Six Nations [KO 8.05pm].
Garry Ringrose is set to continue in Ireland’s 13 shirt. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
The 22-year-old has been excellent at outside centre for Ireland in his first Six Nations campaign, but the return of Jared Payne to Schmidt’s extended squad ahead of the Welsh clash had raised doubts as to whether Ringrose would continue.
However, Payne did not train with Ireland on Monday and with Ringrose in such fine form, it now looks as though Schmidt will keep faith in the Leinster man.
It’s unlikely that the Ireland head coach will make unforced changes to his starting team, with Ireland having recorded back-to-back victories over Italy and France to get their Six Nations campaign back on track after an opening-day defeat to Scotland.
The back three is set to remain unchanged, although Payne does also provide competition for Rob Kearney – who has recovered from a groin strain – at fullback.
Robbie Henshaw is set to start alongside Ringrose once again, while Johnny Sexton should line out alongside Conor Murray in the halfbacks.
There has been temptation for Schmidt to add Peter O’Mahony’s lineout skills to the starting back row, although CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip have been performing to a high standard.
Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner have been similarly effective in the last two games, while Tadhg Furlong, Rory Best and Jack McGrath are a proven unit in the front row.
That said, loosehead McGrath has been feeling the heat from Leinster team-mate Cian Healy in Ireland’s number one shirt, and Schmidt may opt for a change there.