Heaslip back for Cardiff crunch

Published: Thursday 12th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Fit-again Jamie Heaslip has been restored to Ireland’s starting line-up for the potentially decisive RBS 6 Nations clash with Wales in Cardiff.

The British and Irish Lions number eight replaces Jordi Murphy in Ireland’s only change from the 19-9 victory over England for Saturday’s Millennium Stadium trip.

Heaslip suffered three cracked vertebrae in Ireland’s 18-11 victory over France on February 14, and had feared his tournament was at an end.

The 31-year-old has pulled off an impressive recovery however to take his place for a match where victory will leave Ireland on the brink of a second Grand Slam in seven years.

Lynchpin fly-half Johnny Sexton has beaten hamstring trouble to start, while Jared Payne and Sean O’Brien are fit to continue after beating concussion scares.

Captain Paul O’Connell will win his 100th Ireland cap in Wales, equalling Mick Galwey’s record as the nation’s oldest Test skipper at exactly 35 years and 145 days.

Sexton and prop Cian Healy can both notch their 50th Ireland caps against Warren Gatland’s side, with Ireland buoyed by their record of just two defeats in Cardiff since 1983.

Leinster wrecking ball Healy once again takes a seat on the bench, with his club-mate Jack McGrath holding onto the starting loosehead berth.

Ireland can set a new record of 11 consecutive Test victories on Saturday, and leave themselves just Scotland to beat to complete the Grand Slam in the process.

Should Scotland beat England at Twickenham and Ireland see off Wales, head coach Joe Schmidt’s side would retain their Six Nations crown with a round of the competition still to play.

Ireland’s most-capped number eight Heaslip suffered his back complaint after a crude knee to the back from France lock Pascal Pape which earned him a 10-week ban.

Veteran second row Pape appealed his suspension, apologising to Heaslip on Twitter, but Six Nations bosses kept a dim view of the incident and upheld his punishment.

Pape is unlikely to play in the Six Nations again given he should retire after the autumn’s World Cup, so Heaslip’s quick return leaves the Leinster stalwart almost emerging the more unscathed of the pair.

Published: Thursday 12th March 2015 by The News Editor

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