Wales v Ireland, Six Nations Championship, March 21
Ireland face their destiny in Cardiff
March 17, 2009
Ireland's Jamie Heaslip celebrates scoring a try against Scotland, Scotlandv Ireland, Six Nations, Murrayfield, Scotland, March 14, 2009
Jamie Heaslip returns to the Ireland side to face Wales © Getty Images

Ireland coach Declan Kidney has made three changes as his side prepare to take on Wales at the Millennium Stadium in search of their first Grand Slam since 1948.

Munster hooker Jerry Flannery, Leinster No.8 Jamie Heaslip and Munster scrum-half Tomas O'Leary all return to the starting line-up. Flannery replaces Ulster's Rory Best, while Heaslip, who scored the winning try against Scotland at Murrayfield, slots in at the base of the scrum in place of Munster's Denis Leamy.

O'Leary comes in to the side in place of his Munster team-mate Peter Stringer, who will consider himself unlucky after picking up the Man of the Match award against Scotland last weekend.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has rung the changes for the game. Gatland has restored eight of the players that he left out of last weekend's close 20-15 win in Rome, with skipper Ryan Jones, openside Ian Gough, props Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones, hooker Matthew Rees, fly-half Stephen Jones and centre Tom Shanklin all returning to the starting XV.

Shanklin partners Gavin Henson in midfield, with Jamie Roberts dropping to the bench for the first time this tournament. No.8 Andy Powell retains his place in the side after a mixed showing against Italy. Fly-half Jones partners Mike Phillips, with James Hook dropping to the bench.

The bench features six players who started in Rome, with Roberts, Hook, lock Luke Charteris, flanker Dafydd Jones, hooker Huw Bennett and prop John Yapp all retaining places in the 22. London Irish scrum-half Warren Fury will again provide cover for Phillips, with Dwayne Peel, Gareth Cooper and Martin Roberts all currently out injured.

A Welsh win would see them land the Triple Crown and deny Ireland a first Grand Slam since 1948 but they must win by 13 points, something they have not achieved against Ireland for 26 years.

"I don't mind admitting we have left ourselves with a lot to do to win the championship," said Gatland. "But, on the other hand, the 13-point deficit is by no means insurmountable. There is also a Triple Crown at stake and we know only too well in Wales that Grand Slams don't come cheaply.

"We've won two Grand Slams in the last decade and so all the pressure will be on Ireland to grab only the second in their history. With a healthy head start you have to say Ireland are probably favourites to take the title, but we are confident we can come up with a win. And who knows what will happen if we can get ourselves ahead in the game and that Millennium Stadium factor begins to kick in."

Wales: L Byrne (Ospreys); M Jones (Scarlets), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues), G Henson (Ospreys), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), M Phillips (Ospreys); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jones (Ospreys), I Gough (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), R Jones (Ospreys, capt), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), A Powell (Cardiff Blues).

Replacements: H Bennett (Ospreys), J Yapp (Cardiff Blues) L Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), D Jones (Scarlets), W Fury (London Irish), J Hook (Ospreys), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues)

Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, captain), G D'Arcy (Leinster), L Fitzgerald (Leinster); R O'Gara (Munster), T O'Leary (Munster); M Horan (Munster), J Flannery (Munster), J Hayes (Munster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), D Wallace (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster).

Replacements: R Best (Ulster), T Court (Ulster), M O'Driscoll (Munster), D Leamy (Munster), P Stringer (Munster), P Wallace (Ulster), G Murphy (Leicester


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