Match Preview – Wales vs Ireland

February 6, 2021 0 By boss


Wales kick off their Six Nations campaign by hosting Ireland in Cardiff on Sunday (3pm kick-off), talking points include both coaches under pressure, the return of Dan Lydiate and do Ireland have the edge over their hosts?

Last Updated: 06/02/21 10:11am

Wales coach Wayne Pivac (L) and skipper Alun Wyn Jones are hoping for a winning start on Sunday

Wales coach Wayne Pivac (L) and skipper Alun Wyn Jones are hoping for a winning start on Sunday

Wales and Ireland will conclude the opening weekend of this season’s Guinness Six Nations when they clash in Cardiff on Sunday.

We take a look at some of the main talking points heading into the game.

Pressure on both coaches

It is fair to say that 2020 was not a vintage year for Wales head coach Wayne Pivac or his Ireland counterpart Andy Farrell. Pivac succeeded his fellow New Zealander Warren Gatland, but he oversaw only three wins – against Italy twice and Georgia – from 10 starts.

Ireland rugby union head coach Andy Farrell

Ireland rugby union head coach Andy Farrell

Although Farrell’s team claimed more victories than Pivac as he took the reins from Joe Schmidt, there were two comprehensive defeats against England and a 35-27 Six Nations loss to France.

Ireland beat Wales twice last year, and they are chasing a fifth successive victory in the fixture this weekend, but pressure is intense in both camps.

Dan’s the man again

Dan Lydiate is back for Wales after more than two years after his last cap

Dan Lydiate is back for Wales after more than two years after his last cap

Ospreys flanker Dan Lydiate will win his 65th cap on Sunday – more than two years and 29 Wales Tests after the 64th. Lydiate, Six Nations player of the tournament when Wales were crowned Grand Slam champions in 2012, was a mainstay of the team for a lengthy period during Gatland’s coaching tenure.

He turned 33 just before Christmas, but Lydiate’s outstanding Ospreys form has warranted a recall, and he now teams up again with fellow back-row warriors Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau.

Some have criticised the selection, yet it could prove a masterstroke by Pivac.

Ireland in charge

There is no doubt that Ireland have had an edge over Wales in recent times, losing only four of the last 13 meetings.

They will arrive in the Welsh capital this weekend in pursuit of a fifth successive win, although their last Six Nations away victory over Wales came seven years ago.

The two most recent encounters – both in Dublin last year – saw dominant Irish teams prevail 24-14 and 32-9, so Farrell’s men should not lack confidence for a game that is pivotal in terms of either side challenging tournament title favourites England and France.

Wales back home – but not as they know it

Cardiff’s Principality Stadium will be used on Sunday for the first time as a rugby venue since Wales lost to France there almost 12 months ago. It then became Dragon’s Heart Hospital, treating coronavirus patients, before it was decommissioned.

Wales played all six of their 2020 autumn internationals at Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli, but they now head home, albeit behind closed doors and to a back-drop of more than 70,000 empty seats.

Wales have produced some inspired performances over the years in front of their adoring fans, yet that wall of sound will now effectively be replaced by an atmosphere-free zone.

North ready to shine at centre

George North is will start at centre for Wales on Sunday

George North is will start at centre for Wales on Sunday

At the age of 28, wing George North is just two games away from collecting 100 caps for Wales. He has been a regular fixture since bursting onto the Test match stage with a two-try debut against South Africa in 2010.

But it has not always been plain-sailing and North lost his Test place earlier this season following a difficult start to the campaign.

He has rediscovered blistering form at the Ospreys under their new head coach Toby Booth, which was highlighted by a strong showing at outside centre against Italy in December, and he starts again in the number 13 shirt on Sunday. A big performance awaits.

Teams

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Hallam Amos; 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tomos Williams; 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ken Owens, 3 Tomas Francis, 4 Adam Beard, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 7 Justin Tipuric, 8 Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Nick Tompkins.

Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray; 1 Cian Healy, 2 Rob Herring, 3 Andrew Porter, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 5 James Ryan, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 7 Josh van der Flier, 8 CJ Stander.

Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Will Connors, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Jordan Larmour.





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