Home advantage set to rule in Dublin
Wales carry on their defence of the Six Nations trophy this weekend with a trip to Dublin to face Ireland.
After both recording victories in their first games last weekend, this match could go a long way towards deciding the winner of this year’s competition, and with many grudge matches rolled over from last year’s British & Irish Lions tour, this match looks set to be the pick of this weekend’s fixtures.
Ireland have not won their first two fixtures of a Six Nations tournament since 2009, when they won the Grand Slam. However, they will be looking to take advantage of a Wales side that looked sloppy in their first match against Italy last weekend.
Wales, on the other hand, are currently on their best ever run of away form in the Six Nations, having won their last five games in the competition away from home turf. If Wales can continue this excellent away form, their odds of 6/5 look good value. Ireland are 4/5 favourites to take victory at home, with the draw priced at 18/1.
In matches between the two teams there is a very even split. Ireland took victory in Wales during last year’s tournament, whereas Wales won last time the teams met in Ireland. The Irish victory in Cardiff last year ended a small period of Welsh domination in the fixture, in which they had won the three previous encounters between the two sides.
For many, this fixture will be all about the resentment that has built between Wales coach Warren Gatland and Irish centre Brian O’Driscoll. During the British & Irish Lions tour of 2013, Gatland decided to drop O’Driscoll for the final test match of the tour, with the Irishman admitting that he holds a grudge. This battle will be at the forefront of many people’s minds, however, there are other key matchups taking place on the field that will help determine this game.
There are no shortage of matchups with former Lions teammates all over the pitch, especially at scrum-half in Mike Phillips and Conor Murray, full-backs Rob Kearney and Leigh Halfpenny, and Cian Healy versus Adam Jones up-front. The team that can win the majority of these matchups must surely take the match.
Ireland Team News –
After missing last week’s game against Scotland due to a chest infection, Paul O’Connell returns for Ireland at lock. The Munster man is a key figure for the Irish and his return could prove a huge boost- both psychologically and on the field.
Elsewhere, Ireland make one change in the backline, with Gordon D’Arcy replacing Luke Marshall.
Wales Team News –
A key player also returns for Wales in the shape of Sam Warburton, making his first start since injuring a shoulder in December. The flanker will come in for Justin Tipuric and take over the captaincy.
There are other changes in the Welsh forwards, with hugely experienced prop Gethin Jenkins