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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 March 2008, 12:48 GMT
O'Connell & Best back for Ireland
Paul O'Connell and Rory Best (right)
O'Connell and Best have been recalled to the starting line-up

Date: Saturday, 8 March
Kick-off: 1315 GMT
Venue: Croke Park, Dublin
BBC Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC Sport website (UK users only), Radio Ulster MW.

Paul O'Connell and Rory Best have been recalled to the Ireland team for Saturday's eagerly-awaited Six Nations duel with Wales at Croke Park.

As expected O'Connell replaces fellow Munsterman Mick O'Driscoll at lock while Best wins back his hooking role from Leinster's Bernard Jackman.

However, with doubts over Geordan Murphy and Girvan Dempsey, a vacancy has been left at full-back.

Tommy Bowe remains on the right wing despite the claims of Shane Horgan.

Coach Eddie O'Sullivan said he will give both Murphy, now the man in possession of the number 15 jersey, and Dempsey until Thursday before making a decision on their fitness.

Murphy picked up an Achilles tendon strain playing for Leicester last weekend and did not train on Tuesday, but underwent treatment and a rehabilitation session.

Dempsey is struggling with a hip flexor muscle and took a limited part in training and, like Murphy, will be monitored over the next 24 hours.


The injury problem could see O'Sullivan revert to Plan C if both players are ruled out, with Rob Kearney moving to his preferred full-back berth and Horgan coming in on the right wing and Bowe switching to the left.

Horgan came on as a second-half replacement against Scotland and again for Leinster when they played Connacht last Friday.

"Girvan and Geordan are both struggling at the moment," said O'Sullivan.

"They are nip and tuck in terms of fitness and will be given until Thursday before we decide if they are ready."

O'Connell, meanwhile, does not appear to have suffered any reaction to the back injury that blighted his season.

He came through his first full game since the World Cup when he played for Munster against Cardiff last weekend, and was a certainty to link up again with Donncha O'Callaghan once he was passed fit.

Best's return follows on from Jackman's inconsistency against Scotland, and a marvellous performance for Ulster against the Scarlets last Friday.

O'Sullivan said Jackman's relegation to the bench followed a "ropey" start against Scotland that had put the home side on the back foot for a lot of the first half.

Paul (O'Connell) came off the bench and had a big impact in the game against Scotland

Eddie O'Sullivan

"I don't want to go into the game and risk that again," said the Ireland coach.

"I have to be sensible and say look Rory (Best), he's probably proved himself."

O'Sullivan added that the demotion of Mick O'Driscoll had been a "very difficult call".

"Paul came off the bench and had a big impact in the game against Scotland.

"He then had a fine game for Munster at the weekend. He needed a game like that. He lasted the pace and got a lot of work done.

"The fact he got that match under his belt influenced the decision. He's a good leader."

Jackman and O'Driscoll are the only changes to what is still a replacements bench with punch.

Ireland: AN Other; Bowe, B O'Driscoll (capt), Trimble, Kearney; O'Gara, Reddan; Horan, Best, Hayes, O'Callaghan, O'Connell, Leamy, D Wallace, Heaslip.
Replacements: Jackman, Buckley, M O'Driscoll, Easterby, Stringer, P Wallace, Horgan.

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