x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Stringer is on bench

Declan Kidney, the Ireland head coach, opts for the exuberance of Tomas O'Leary rather than the experience of Peter Stringer for the Grand Slam decider against Wales.

Peter Stringer has been left out of the starting XV by Declan Kidney for the crunch match with Wales.
Peter Stringer has been left out of the starting XV by Declan Kidney for the crunch match with Wales.

Declan Kidney, the Ireland head coach, has opted for the exuberance of Tomas O'Leary rather than the experience of Peter Stringer for the Grand Slam decider against Wales on Saturday. Stringer, who has 88 caps to his name, was expected to continue his half-back partnership with Ronan O'Gara following his man-of-the-match display against Scotland last weekend, but he has been surprisingly demoted to the bench.

In another shock change, Kidney has recalled hooker Jerry Flannery at the expense of Rory Best while Jamie Heaslip, a try-scorer at Murrayfield, ends his brief stint on the bench and takes his place in the back row instead of Denis Leamy. Ireland are bidding to secure their first Grand Slam for 61 years while the Triple Crown and the Six Nations Championship title are also at stake. Ireland will take all three honours if they win, while Wales need to beat Ireland by 13 points or more to secure the Championship and the Triple Crown.

The visitors will need to be on their mettle defensively on Saturday and defence coach Alan Gaffney is looking forward to the challenge. "I feel excited," said Gaffney. "It's a once in a lifetime experience but we have to keep that in perspective. "We particularly have to keep control of ourselves. We can't start showing hype or wanting to do too much or just living in the video room. "We must try and live as much of a normal life as we can.

"As coaches, if we show any weakness anywhere it will flow through to the players and we just can't do that because the players would sense it immediately. "While it is there in the subconscious or in the back of the mind, it won't unduly affect me." * With agencies