Stander handed Ireland debut


Munster back-row CJ Stander will make his Ireland debut at the Aviva Stadium this weekend when Joe Schmidt's defending Six Nations champions host Wales.

Stander comes in at blindside flanker for the opener after injuries and retirements have left the Ireland team slightly bare.

The 25-year-old's performances for Munster have brought him quickly into contention, the South Africa-born forward only qualifying for the national team after the Rugby World Cup.

Munster team-mate Tommy O'Donnell also slots into the back row, while Nathan White gets his chance in the front row and hooker Rory Best will captain the side on his 90th appearance.

Ireland's back line sees Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton together at half-back, while Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw will look to take the battle to Wales in the centre.

Neither Sean O'Brien and Rob Kearney are included by Schmidt, however the coach hopes to have them back in training next week.

Ireland team to face Wales: Simon Zebo, Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Keith Earls, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best, Nathan White, Mike McCarthy, Devin Toner, CJ Stander, Tommy O'Donnell, Jamie Heaslip

Replacements: Sean Cronin, James Cronin, Tadgh Furlong, Donnacha Ryan, Rhys Ruddock, Kieran Marmion, Ian Madiga, Dave Kearney