Schmidt defends Best as Ireland, Wales make big changes
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt responded to a record 57-15 loss to England at Twickenham by making 12 changes to his side for Saturday's World Cup warm-up clash against Wales in Cardiff.
However, Schmidt branded the criticism of veteran captain Rory Best as "unfair" and added the Ulster hooker to the bench for this weekend at his request.
Best and prop Tadhg Furlong were due to be rested, but Schmidt admitted both asked for extra game time to push themselves back up to top match sharpness.
"They were very keen to get back in and get back involved, they felt they were just a bit off last week," said Schmidt.
"They felt that it would help them in their preparation if they got a little bit more time this week.
"We're looking at them getting 25 to 30 minutes as the plan. That can springboard them into next week and beyond if they are selected.
"Rory felt he was underdone, and didn't have the energy in his legs."
Johnny Sexton again misses out as Jack Carty starts at fly-half with a big opportunity to push ahead of Ross Byrne as back-up to Sexton and Joey Carbery, who faces a race against time to be fit for the start of the World Cup.
- 'So much at stake' -
Wales coach Warren Gatland has made 14 changes to the team that beat England 13-6 at the Principality Stadium on August 17 to move to world number one, with wing Owen Lane and prop Rhys Carre making their debuts.
Fullback Hallam Amos, centre Scott Williams, fly-half Jarrod Evans and hooker Ryan Elias have all been given a chance to prove their worth ahead of Gatland announcing his 31-man World Cup squad on Sunday.
The 21-year-old Carre is regarded as one of the most promising young platers in the game and was signed by English and European champions Saracens from Cardiff earlier this year.
Saturday's match will be Gatland's last home match in charge of Wales before the New Zealander steps down after Japan 2019.
"It is a great opportunity for Rhys and Owen," said Gatland after announcing his team on Thursday.
"They have worked hard all summer to get to this point, so it will be good for them to get their first international caps and put their hands up for RWC (Rugby World Cup) selection after the match."
The former Ireland coach added: "There is so much at stake in terms of RWC selection and -- with a number of positions still up for grabs -- it will be a huge game."
Hallam Amos; Owen Lane, Scott Williams, Owen Watkin, Steff Evans; Jarrod Evans, Aled Davies; Josh Navidi (capt), James Davies, Aaron Shingler; Bradley Davies, Adam Beard; Samson Lee, Ryan Elias, Rhys Carre
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rob Evans, Leon Brown, Jake Ball, Ross Moriarty, Tomos Williams, Rhys Patchell, Jonah Holmes
Will Addison; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Jack Conan, Peter O?Mahony (capt), Tadhg Beirne; James Ryan, Iain Henderson; John Ryan, Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: Rory Best, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, Jordi Murphy, Luke McGrath, Garry Ringrose, Dave Kearney
© 2019 AFP