Ryan Jones, the Wales captain, will not play against Ireland on Saturday as coach Warren Gatland seeks to ensure his fitness for the rest of the Magners League campaign with Ospreys and the build-up to next year's World Cup. The No 8 has a calf muscle problem that has prevented him from training this week and he will not be risked in Dublin.
"Ryan has been managing his calf, he needs to get it right for his own sake, as well as for his region, who have some big matches of their own coming up," said Gatland. "And for the sake of the national cause as we count down to the World Cup." Martyn Williams, the Cardiff Blues flanker, will captain the side at Croke Park. Gareth Delve will earn his first cap since the 2008 tour to South Africa, while Dwayne Peel, the scrum-half, also comes back into the squad.
"It is an opportunity for Martyn, who is one of our key leaders, to rise to the challenge after doing a good job [captaining] against Scotland last year when Ryan was forced to withdraw," Gatland added. "This is also a great opportunity for Delve, who we have been keeping a close eye on and who is also a leader himself. "Ireland are an impressive and experienced side with a pack of players who have been around for a long time and who are tough players. We know we need to improve, but think we have the talent and ability to match any squad and are confident we are good enough to win this match if we can get things right on the day."
Brian O'Driscoll, the Ireland captain, will earn his 100th cap after being passed fit following a heavy blow to his head in the 20-16 win over England 10 days ago. O'Driscoll, 31, will be the 14th player to represent his country 100 times in rugby union. "I've always approached it like the next game in a green shirt is my last. With that policy you can't go far wrong. And it's not over yet," he said.
"At the start you want to get as many caps as possible, but you never look and hope to attain 100." O'Driscoll's inclusion means coach Declan Kidney has named an unchanged XV for the game, with full-back Rob Kearney coming onto the bench. * With agencies