Wales v Ireland Preview – Rugby Six Nations -Playnbrag
Brought to You by Declan Murphy
They will field an unchanged side when they take on Wales at the Principality (formerly the Millennium) stadium in Cardiff. The match takes place this Friday (10th), at 8pm.
It’s the same Irish team that beat France, 19-9, two weeks ago in Paris. The only change to the squad is Tommy Bowe coming in for his injured Ulster team-mate, Andrew Trimble. Trimble has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament.
Bowe made his return to test rugby as a replacement in Ireland’s defeat to Scotland, at the start of the 6 Nations. It was an inauspicious start. He looked well off his usual form. It was actually his first test for Ireland since the 2015 World Cup. His long lay off was due to injury.
Joe Schmidt has been impressed with Bowe’s performance in training. Rob Kearney was another injury concern but he has been declared fully fit.
Jonny Sexton returned from injury to play against the French and, after a slow start, marshalled the game well.
The Welsh squad have admitted been wary of Sexton and his halfback partner, Conor Murray, and the damage that they can inflict on opposing sides. Sexton and Murray may be the best half-back partnership in the 6 Nations.
It’s a strong Irish team, overall, which came through a very tough test against a resurgent French side. Easily their best performance since last year’s Autumn Series win against Australia.
They put to rest the ghost of the poor performance against Scotland in the opening game of the tournament.
Wales also field an unchanged side, from the one that lost to Scotland, 29-13. They put in one or two nice passages, but overall it was a poor performance.
If Wales lose to Ireland, it will be their third successive defeat in this year’s tournament, having already lost to Scotland and England. Wales have not lost three 6 Nations’ tests in a row since 2007.
They have also not lost successive home internationals since 2003. Winning only 1 of their last 4 meetings against Ireland. They won, 23-16 in Cardiff in 2015.
There are some intriguing contests to look out for, especially in terms of Lions selection. Rob Kearney will want to put in his best game against Leigh Halfpenny.
George North has been quiet so far this season and will want to put in a strong performance. Both Earls and Zebo lack his size but are more versatile. Liam Williams is an attacking force.
Jonathan Davies has lost his edge and will want to try to halt the progress of Robbie Henshaw and Gary Ringrose. Biggar and Webb have a tough ask to try to contain Sexton and Murray.
Ireland have the superior front row, while Alun Wynn Jones dominated the much vaunted Gray brothers in the test against Scotland. Toner and Ryan will have a lot to prove.
In the back row, Sam Warburton has re-invented himself as a blindside but is still behind CJ Stander in the pecking order. Sean O’Brien is ahead of Tipuric, though only just. Heaslip has the better of Moriarty.
Ireland have the better team but have shown that they can become complacent. Wales won’t want to concede another defeat. Ireland still have a chance of winning the 6 Nations, while Wales will only be looking to scupper that dream.
I believe Ireland will win but Wales will get a losing bonus point.
Friday night fixtures
Since the 6 Nations introduced Friday night matches in 2009, there have been 7 games that took place on a Friday, all involving Wales. 6 in Cardiff, and one in Paris. This will be Ireland’s first 6 Nations game played on a Friday.
And the best of the rest
Also in 6 Nations action this weekend, Scotland are looking to win their first Triple Crown since 1990, when they take on England at Twickenham. Scotland are on an upward curve but may not have enough to conquer England.