The Six Nations holds extra significance this year, with places on the Lions’ tour of Australia up for grabs. Ahead of this weekend’s opening round of matches we thought we’d ask the experts from each of the countries involved to give us their thoughts.
What are you hoping to see from your side this weekend?
There are probably quite a few people in Wales who would take a 3 – 0 win at this point! As long as we end our 7 game losing streak, I really don’t mind. Getting off to a winning start is crucial in this tournament.
If this match becomes a one-score bruiser in the final quarter as it very well might, Ireland needs to be able to knuckle down and get stuck in rather than blindly go through the per-ordained set of plays, otherwise it could be a familiar result.
What strengths do your team possess which will help them prevail?
The size and physicality of our backline. We had too much firepower for the Irish to defend against last year. If our forwards can get our backs some good ball, then hopefully they’ll cause Ireland some problems again.
Defence. Since the nightmare final phase in Dublin last year when we virtually let the Welsh march down the field for the winning score, we’ve been pretty strong in open-play defence, and we’ve got a wealth of experience involved in key positions with centres D’Arcy & O’Driscoll, and Les Kiss pulling the strings.
What weaknesses do the opposition have that will prevent them from winning?
Ireland are a good team, with talent in every position. They have some very dangerous wingers in the shape of Gilroy and Zebo, but I can’t help but feel that their centres are passed their best at 34 (BOD) and nearly 33 (D’Arcy). Of course they have a wealth of experience, but they look to have lost their pace. I’d be far more concerned if Keith Earls had forced his way in the starting line-up as he can be really elusive.
Their recent record suggests they have problems when Daddy isn’t home, ie Warren Gatland. Not sure if that’s to go as far as to say that Rob Howley is Mummy, but they need to show they can win without the Lions’ boss at the helm. They’ve also got issues at 10, and with the discipline of their side in general.
Who is the key player for your team this weekend?
Dan Biggar has to be considered our key man. The result might well depend on his performance. He is very inexperienced and we’re not really too sure if he’s capable of raising his game to international level. If he plays well, then we stand a chance. If he doesn’t, then I can’t see us winning this one.
There are two – tighthead Mike Ross and hooker Rory Best. We need scrums to be solid and lineout throws to be accurate. We have plenty of ability to compete in the loose and enough experience where it counts to thwart their attacking threats, but if we struggle at set pieces that could well be the ball game.
I really do think it’s too close to call. Man for man, we’ve probably got more talent, but recently Ireland have performed better than us as a unit. My heart says WAL 23 – 20 IRE, my head says WAL 17 – 20 IRE. Whatever the score, Wales and Ireland always produce a game with lots of drama and I can’t wait for it to kick off.
Can’t see it being anything but tight, and despite our recent struggles against the Welsh I can’t get the green goggles off of me – reckon we’ll do just about enough to scrape home, I’m going for a cracker of a contest with a final score of Wales 22-24 Ireland.