Six Nations – Wales v Ireland: Ireland player profiles

Patrick Madden looks at Joe Schmidt’s final Irish Six Nations selection

Tadhg Beirne will make his Six Nations debut against Wales in Cardiff. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Tadhg Beirne will make his Six Nations debut against Wales in Cardiff. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

15 Rob Kearney (Leinster)
Age: 32
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 95kg (14st 13lb)
Caps: 89
Kearney was a concerning late withdrawal against France, but his replacement Larmour was never really tested aerially at the Aviva. Today is a day for experience, of which he has plenty.

14 Keith Earls (Munster)
Age: 31
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 87kg (13st 9lbs)
Caps: 76
After a slow start Earls has been one of Ireland’s players of the Championship. Consistently dangerous with ball in hand, his try against France was both clever and devastating.

13 Garry Ringrose (Leinster)
Age:
24
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 94kg (14st 11lbs)
Caps: 19
Ireland’s attack looked so much sharper with Ringrose back in midfield, while he tightens up things defensively as well. Has quickly becoming indispensable to this side , and match-up today with Jonathan Davies will be key.

12 Bundee Aki (Connacht)
Age:
28
Height: 6’
Weight: 101kg (15st 12lbs)
Caps: 16
Aki has been consistently excellent throughout the tournament despite plenty of change outside him – his match-up with fellow Kiwi Hadleigh Parkes will be a bruiser.

11 Jacob Stockdale (Ulster)
Age: 22
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 103kg (16st 3lbs)
Caps: 18
Was deprived of a score against France despite Ireland’s dominance – his clinical finishing will be vital on what looks to be an afternoon of few chances.

10 Jonathan Sexton (Leinster)
Age:
33
Height: 6’ 2”
Weight: 92kg (14st 6lbs)
Caps: 82
Sexton controlled the game against France, taking the initiative and scoring a textbook wrap-around try. Hopefully his tournament peaks in Cardiff, where Ireland will need all his nous.

9 Conor Murray (Munster)
Age:
29
Height: 6’ 2”
Weight: 93kg (14st 6lbs)
Caps: 71
Murray is still feeling his way back into things and yet to rediscover the form which made him the world’s best last year – needs to be physical and accurate in Cardiff.

1 Cian Healy (Leinster)
Age: 31
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 106kg (18st 1lb)
Caps: 87
Healy delivered a powerful performance against France, carrying and clearing out with aplomb. A good omen ahead of today’s slug-fest.

2 Rory Best (Ulster)
Age:
36
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 106kg (16st 9lbs)
Caps: 116
Best is set to retire after the World Cup so this is his Six Nations farewell. His work on the floor has been good but throwing at the lineout has been loose.

3 Tadhg Furlong (Leinster)
Age: 26
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 126kg (19st 11lbs)
Caps: 32
France had no answer to Ireland’s power game and Furlong was at the heart of it, as always. Will bring the intensity the visitors need today while the set-piece will be crucial.

4 Tadhg Beirne (Munster)
Age:
27
Height:6’5”
Weight: 113kg (17st8lb)
Caps: 4
Back in after a knee injury for his Six Nations debut, he will be familiar with several of his former Scarlets team-mates. A master at stealing and slowing down ball, his partnership with Ryan will make this a compelling contest up front.

5 James Ryan (Leinster)
Age:
22
Height: 6’8”
Weight: 108kg (17st)
Caps: 16
Man of the match against France, carried 13 times and made 19 tackles. Ireland are an entirely different proposition with him in the team.

6 Peter O’Mahony (Munster)
Age:
29
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 107kg (16st 11lbs)
Caps: 56
A clash with Wales is going to be an all-out war and there is no better man to take Ireland into the trenches. Will relish this particular challenge more than most.

7 Seán O’Brien (Leinster)
Age:
32
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 108kg (17st)
Caps: 55
Left out against France but Josh van der Flier’s injury sees him recalled. A chance to rage against the dying of the light and prove he is not a spent force.

8 CJ Stander (Munster)
Age:
28
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 114kg (17st 13lbs)
Caps: 30
Again, Ireland’s improved physicality was largely down to Stander’s return from injury. His work off the ball can be unheralded but is as effective as his carrying.

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