Rugby Union: McBride for Irish: Armstrong faces England

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SCOTLAND'S drastic surgery for the England match on 5 February ended yesterday with the expected return of Gary Armstrong at scrum-half. Ireland have settled for something less radical against the revivalist Welsh at Lansdowne Road the same day: only two changes of personnel from the team beaten yet again at Parc des Princes, but also three positional changes, writes Steve Bale.

This suggests that the selectors feel their choice has virtually reached its optimum. Restored to fitness, Denis McBride is restored at open- side flanker in place of Ken O'Connell, the latest in an Irish line of unfortunates given their first - and sometimes only - cap in Paris.

As Vincent Cunningham had a knee operation yesterday after being injured playing for St Mary's, the return at centre of Mark McCall, capped twice in New Zealand in 1992, was even more assured than it would anyway have been on form.

Ireland's musical chairs at forward follows Lions lines in giving up on Mick Galwey as a blind-side flanker and moving him to lock.

IRELAND (v Wales, Dublin, 5 February): C O'Shea (Lansdowne); R Wallace (Garryowen), M McCall (Bangor), P Danaher (Garryowen), S Geoghegan (London Irish); E Elwood (Lansdowne), M Bradley (Constitution, capt); N Popplewell (Greystones), T Kingston (Dolphin), P Clohessy (Young Munster), M Galwey (Shannon), N Francis (Old Belvedere), B Robinson (Ballymena), P Johns (Dungannon), D McBride (Malone). Replacements: A N Other, A McGowan (Blackrock College), R Saunders (London Irish), K O'Connell (Sunday's Well), G Halpin (London Irish), K Wood (Garryowen).

Armstrong willing, page 33