Iain Henderson’s knee ligament injury gives Munster and former Scarlets lock Tadhg Beirne the opportunity to make his Championship debut in the second row. The other change up front sees Sean O’Brien return for his fourth appearance of the tournament.
He replaces Josh van der Flier at openside flanker after the latter was ruled out with a groin injury. The final switch is at full-back where Rob Kearney has overcome calf tightness to reclaim the number 15 jersey on the occasion of his 90th Ireland cap.
Jordan Larmour reverts to the replacements bench which includes fit-again scrum half Kieran Marmion, Andrew Porter, and Quinn Roux. Saturday’s game in Cardiff will be Schmidt’s 30th and final Six Nations match in charge of Ireland while captain Rory Best will lead the team out on his 64th and final Six Nations appearance.
Beirne partners James Ryan, the man-of-the-match against France, in the engine room, with O’Brien rejoining vice-captain Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander in the loose forwards.
It is the same back-line that was originally selected for the 26-14 victory over the French – Garry Ringrose and Bundee Aki team up in the centre for the seventh time, vice-captain Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray direct operations from half-back, and Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale, who have scored a combined six tries in previous meetings with Wales, offer a significant threat out wide.
Ireland team to face Wales: Kearney, Earls, Ringrose, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best, Furlong, Beirne, Ryan, O’Mahony, O’Brien, Stander
Replacements: Scannel, Kilcoyne, Porter, Roux, Conan, Marmion, Carty, Larmour