Wales continue Rugby World Cup warm-up campaign in Ireland
It’s up to Alun Wyn Jones to lead Wales in Dublin, where they take on Ireland in their second Rugby World Cup warm-up meeting, and third fixture of 2015 between these Celtic rivals.
Denying Joe Schmidt’s side the Six Nations grand slam, Wales then lost when the Irish revisited Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. Head coach Warren Gatland is putting out a much stronger team away from home, however, and that makes a 7/4 price for Wales to win with Coral tempting.
Sam Warburton has handed over the armband for this latest Ireland encounter to Jones, after a pinched nerve in his shoulder sidelined the usual skipper. Being captain is something the latter has relished, especially when leading the British and Irish Lions to victory over Australia in 2013.
Jones has also skippered his country before in 2009 and 2014, so that experience stands him in good stead for what is a stern test. Wing George North is also back for Wales, playing for the first time since sustaining a concussion in early March, and is set to earn his 50th cap at the Aviva Stadium.
Gatland is clearly concerned about nifty North, who is 2/1 to mark this occasion with a try anytime. “It’s not about Wales as a team; it’s the individual who is the most important thing,” said the coach. “It’s his health and making sure that’s at the forefront of our decision-making.
“I did express concerns recently that we’ve got to make sure things are right because if he does pick up one or two more serious knocks that could be the end of his career.”
Dominating Wales’ XV will be eight Ospreys players for this Ireland international test, so expect their club team spirit to carry over to their country. There’s a lot to be said for home advantage, however, and that’s why Schmidt’s side are odds-on at 4/9 for victory.
In a close to call Celtic clash, Ireland field try chances Rob Kearney (3/1 anytime) and Robbie Henshaw (4/1), alongside kicker Johnny Sexton. Conor Murray, 5/1 to cross, and Peter O’Mahony are also in.
Paul O’Connell captains his country for the last time on native Irish soil, whilst Leinster Prop Tadhg Furlong could make his senior international bow from the bench and there’s a first start for Connacht’s Nathan White at tight head prop.
Coral’s top tip: A narrow margin of victory looks likely, so back Ireland to win by 1-5 points at 4/1