DUBLIN Ireland have named an unchanged starting XV for the Six Nations showdown with Wales in Cardiff on Friday as coach Joe Schmidt looks for continuity to improve the team’s combination play.
New Zealander Schmidt announced his side on Wednesday with the only change on the bench as Ulster wing Andrew Trimble was ruled out of the remainder of the tournament with a hand injury and is replaced by club mate Tommy Bowe.
Johnny Sexton will again fill the crucial playmaker role at flyhalf with the side captained by experienced prop Rory Best.
"You have to keep improving and we have combinations who we feel are improving, so you must give them an opportunity to do so,” Schmidt told a news conference.
Ireland beat France 19-9 in Dublin in their last outing on Feb. 25 to stay in the hunt for the title after a 27-22 opening day defeat by Scotland and a 63-10 mauling of Italy.
They trail leaders England by three points and host Eddie Jones’ side in the final round of matches on March 18.
Schmidt said he was looking for small improvements from his team after the France win, with the scrum an area of concern.
“Some of what we didn't do so well against France, we must do better against Wales,” he said.
"For us it is about tidying up bits and pieces, rather than saying, ‘Here is a list of things we need to do better’. We are trying to focus on what we are doing well, harness that and improve to keep pressure on opponents.”
15-Rob Kearney, 14-Keith Earls, 13-Garry Ringrose, 12- Robbie Henshaw, 11-Simon Zebo, 10-Johnny Sexton, 9-Conor Murray; 8-Jamie Heaslip, 7-Sean O'Brien, 6-CJ Stander, 5-Devin Toner, 4-Donnacha Ryan, 3-Tadhg Furlong, 2-Rory Best (captain), 1-Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16-Niall Scannell, 17-Cian Healy, 18-John Ryan, 19-Iain Henderson, 20-Peter O'Mahony, 21-Kieran Marmion, 22-Paddy Jackson, 23-Tommy Bowe
(Reporting by Nick Said; editing by Ken Ferris)