Joe Schmidt has rung the changes ahead of Ireland’s trip to the Principality Stadium on Saturday to take on the world’s number one side, Wales.

Jacob Stockdale, Iain Henderson Peter O’Mahony and Bundee Aki are the only players to retain their spots in the starting fifteen with Joe preferring to try new options.

Joining Henderson and Stockdale as the Ulster contingent in the team is Will Addison who starts at fullback. This will be Addison’s first game back since Ulster’s away win against Leicester Tigers in January of this year. Rory Best and Jordi Murphy are named on the bench.

Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and John Ryan form an all-Munster front row while James Ryan joins Henderson in the second row. O’Mahony switches to the openside and captains the side while Tadhg Beirne and Jack Conan receive starts in the six and eight jerseys respectively.

Connacht provide the half back pairing in the form of Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty. Carty appeared off the bench for a cameo last week and had a number of bright glimpses amid a back line that was in chaos. Chris Farrell starts alongside Bundee Aki while Andrew Conway joins Ulstermen Stockdale and Addison in the back three.

Wales cemented number one spot in the world with a win over England two weeks ago and will be looking to consolidate that spot with another win over an Irish side lacking confidence. A draw or defeat would see Warren Gatland’s side fall with New Zealand regaining top spot (World Rugby).

For Ireland to take top spot, they need to beat Wales by more than 15 points while a smaller margin would see them move into second spot behind the All Blacks (World Rugby).

Wales have also named a rotated side for Saturday’s match. Dan Biggar, Ken Owens, George North, Hadleigh Parkes and Alun-Wyn Jones are all given the weekend off while Ross Moriarty and Rhys Patchell are on the bench. Owen Lane will make his debut on the right wing while James Davies makes another appearance. Steff Evans and Hallam Amos are exceptionally quick players in the backline and for whatever grunt they lack without Alun-Wyn Jones, Bradley Davies provides in abundance.

Recent form certainly installs Wales as favourites, particularly as they have not lost to Ireland in Cardiff since August 2015, a warm up game for the last World Cup. While confidence may be low in the Irish team, this presents the perfect opportunity to generate some momentum ahead of the World Cup. 

The FRU predicts: I can’t see Wales running away with this match like they did in March, or like England did last week. I still think they have enough to see off the challenge of Ireland and remain at the top of the World Rankings for at least another week.

Wales   Ireland
Hallam Amos 15 Will Addison
Owen Lane 14 Andrew Conway
Scott Williams 13 Chris Farrell
Owen Watkin 12 Bundee Aki
Steff Evans 11 Jacob Stockdale
Jarrod Evans 10 Jack Carty
Aled Davies 9 Kieran Marmion
Rhys Carre 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Ryan Elias 2 Niall Scannell
Samson Lee 3 John Ryan
Adam Beard 4 Iain Henderson
Bradley Davies 5 James Ryan
Aaron Shingler 6 Tadhg Beirne
James Davies 7 Peter O’Mahony
Josh Navidi 8 Jack Conan
Elliot Dee 16 Rory Best
Rob Evans 17 Andrew Porter
Leon Brown 18 Tadhg Furlong
Jake Ball 19 Devin Toner
Ross Moriarty 20 Jordi Murphy
Tomos Williams 21 Luke McGrath
Rhys Patchell 22 Garry Ringrose
Jonah Holmes 23 Dave Kearney

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