Tadhg Beirne will make his Six Nations debut for Ireland in Saturday's showdown with Wales in Cardiff. 

The Munster player replaces the injured Iain Henderson (knee) and starts in the second row alongside James Ryan. 

Ex-Scarlets man Beirne, 27, made his international debut during last summer's tour of Australia and has four caps.

"He knows these players pretty well," said Joe Schmidt of Beirne. "He's played against the second row a lot of times. He'll know his Scarlets team-mates very well.

"He would have liked to have had a bit more game time leading into it and it's one of those things that you'd love to go two weeks in a row with the same team.

"We haven't really been afforded that luxury with the different injuries that we've had. It's just a case of slotting people in and as I've said all through the Six Nations, it's been a really positive challenge for us to see if we can mix and match players and still try to get some cohesion."

There is also a recall for flanker Sean O'Brien, who did not feature in the match-day panel for Sunday's win over France, but had featured against England, Scotland and Italy.


A groin injury keeps Josh van der Flier out, and Joe Schmidt has opted for the Carlow man ahead of Dan Leavy, who hasn't played a game since Leinster's Pro14 meeting with Connacht on 22 December.

"We do believe that Sean fits the bill," Schmidt told RTE Sport. "We're expecting Sean to put his best foot forward."

After just two training sessions for Leavy, the head coach said it would "have been a really big ask".

Rob Kearney, who was a late withdrawal last weekend, returns at full-back having recovered from a calf strain. 

The front row remains unchanged with Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong either side of captain Rory Best, who will make his final championship appearance. 

Munster men Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander retain their places in the back row, while Jack Conan who impressed last week, playing just under an hour of the 26-14 win, returns to the bench

The Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton half-back partnership remains intact, while Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose line out in the centre.

Jacob Stockdale and Keith Earls keep their wing berths. 

Munster duo Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne plus Andrew Porter cover the front row off the bench, with Quinn Roux and Conan the other forward replacements. 

Scrum-half Kieran Marmion may get his first taste of Six Nations action this year off the bench, with Jack Carty and Jordan Larmour covering the rest of the backline.

"The plan was definitely for [injured out-half] Joey Carbery to be fit and able to train this week...he's incredibly close but he didn't quite make the deadline to tick all his boxes of his return to play," Schmidt added of the decision to retain Carty on the bench.

"Most people would have appreciated just how well Jack Carty has slotted in so far - fully controlled the back end of the game really well against France."

On Henderson's injury, which leaves him in a fitness race for Ulster's Champions Cup quarter-final with Leinster the end of the month, Schmidt said: "He played a super game so it wasn't until we got back to the hotel that he felt that his knee was a bit sore, he just sprained it, hopefully he will be back in the next few weeks."

Ireland (v Wales): Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best (capt), Tadhg Furlong; Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan; Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Quinn Roux, Jack Conan, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty, Jordan Larmour.

Follow Wales v Ireland on Saturday (kick-off 2.45pm) via the live blog on RTÉ.ie/Sport and the News Now App, or listen live on RTÉ 2fm, with commentary from Michael Corcoran and Donal Lenihan.