Six Nations 2017: Ireland unchanged for Wales game as Garry Ringrose is retained

Garry Ringrose in action against France on 25 February
Garry Ringrose caused the France defence some problems in Ireland's last game
Six Nations: Wales v Ireland
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Date: Friday, 10 March Kick-off: 20:05 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, S4C, Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru, plus live text commentary via the BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has named an unchanged starting line-up for Friday's Six Nations game against Wales.

With Jared Payne, 31, missing training on Monday because of an ankle knock, Schmidt has opted to retain Garry Ringrose at outside centre.

Payne has returned to Ulster action in the last fortnight after three months out because of a kidney injury.

Rob Kearney remains at full-back after recovering from a groin injury picked up in the win over France.

The only change in Ireland's match-day squad sees wing Tommy Bowe coming in for his injured Ulster team-mate Andrew Trimble in the replacements.

Trimble will miss the remainder of the Six Nations after breaking a hand in Ulster's Pro12 win over Treviso last Friday.

Lock Iain Henderson and flanker Peter O'Mahony both made impressive contributions after coming on as replacements against the French but have to be content with bench berths again.

Vice-captain Jamie Heaslip will make his 100th Test appearance in Friday's game as he wins his 95th Ireland cap in addition to five games for the British & Irish Lions.

Since Brian O'Driscoll's retirement in 2014, Ulster star Payne and Robbie Henshaw have formed Ireland's centre partnership on 13 occasions.

There was speculation last week that Payne was in line to replace Ringrose at the Principality Stadium but the New Zealand-born player's absence from training on Monday meant Schmidt was always going to retain the 22-year-old Leinster centre.

Jared Payne (centre) in action against Australia in November
Payne was out for three months after suffering a kidney injury in the November win over Australia

Payne trained with Ireland on Wednesday morning

Speaking at the team announcement, Schmidt revealed that Payne had looked "sharp" as he resumed training on Wednesday morning but said this wasn't sufficient time to select him.

"That put him in the frame but he just hadn't had enough time with us," added the Ireland coach.

"Some of Garry's defensive work was outstanding against France. I thought his tackle on Guirado on the 22 when he closed the space so quickly, those are the things we see as growth points for Garry."

Payne was expected to miss all the Six Nations after sustaining a fractured kidney in Ireland's win over Australia in late November but then made a quicker than expected return to action as a replacement in Ulster's game against Zebre on 26 February.

The Ulster centre played the full game in the Irish province's win over Treviso last weekend and Schmidt said he could feature for his club in Saturday's game against Zebre.

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Joe Schmidt picks unchanged Ireland team for Six Nations game with Wales

Bowe edges out Gilroy for bench berth

Schmidt added that Bowe's strength and "ability in the air" had led to him edging out his Ulster team-mate Craig Gilroy for the bench role vacated by injured Trimble.

Gilroy came off the bench to score three late tries in the 63-10 hammering of Italy in Rome but Schmidt described the wing's display as a "mixed bag" as he referred to a "couple of defensive things".

Ireland must win in Wales to keep their trophy chances alive, and a victory would most likely tee up a title decider against England in Dublin on Saturday, 18 March.

Ireland team: Kearney; Earls, Ringrose, Henshaw, Zebo; Sexton, Murray; McGrath, Best (capt), Furlong; Ryan, Toner; CJ Stander, O'Brien, Heaslip.

Replacements: N Scannell, Healy, J Ryan, Henderson, O'Mahony, Marmion, Jackson, Bowe.

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