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Wales manager Gatland targets Ireland's Sexton, Murray

Wales manager Gatland targets Ireland's Sexton, Murray

Gatland, who this week becomes only the second coach after New Zealand World Cup victor Graham Henry to clock up 100 Tests for one country, has made three changes from the side beaten by England, calling up fit-again full-back Leigh Halfpenny, wing Liam Williams and fly-half Dan Biggar.

With injury ruling out Lions trio Tadgh Furlong, Robbie Henshaw and Iain Henderson, Cian Healy and Andrew Porter will replace Jack McGrath and Furlong in the front row, while James Ryan and CJ Stander come into the pack instead of Henderson and Jack Conan. The tighthead prop injured his hamstring in the win over Italy, and has failed to recover in time. But hopes were held out for as long as possible for Furlong and Henderson, both of whom are dealing with hamstring issues. "Sometimes we kick, sometimes we run, sometimes we go wide, sometimes we go through the middle", said Schmidt.

"We're short on experience, we're up against a team welcoming back three Lions".

"You don't suddenly replace world-class players", Schmidt says.

Schmidt added that there is an element of going into the unknown this weekend, but there are no question marks over the ability of Porter, Ryan and Farrell to step up.

In an Irish context O'Sullivan leads the way from his time as national coach (2001-2008), 23 Test matches more than 2009 Grand Slam winning coach Kidney, who on Saturday will be joined by Schmidt on 53 Tests after the game against Wales. "The unknown is always a fear for pretty much any human being, and there is a little bit about the unknown going into this weekend". But he says they did not want to risk the lock given what's still to come in the Six Nations.

"Do we play slightly differently from how we did two years ago?" he asked.

"But Wales have shown in the last round that they're fearless away from home and with the pace in their back row, now augmented by the return of Taulupe Faletau, they could cause Ireland some serious problems".

There's another rest week after round three, before Ireland welcome Scotland to Aviva. Wales handed the eventual 2015 champion its only defeat, opened 2016 with a draw in Dublin, and won again in Cardiff a year ago.

Ireland's coach Joe Schmidt: will move into joint second place on the all-time Irish coaches list with Wales match.


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