Preview: Ireland v Wales

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Wales head to Ireland this weekend as Wayne Pivac takes charge of his first game outside of Cardiff at the Aviva Stadium, kick-off 2.15pm on Saturday.

Both sides are looking to make it back-to-back wins at the start of this Six Nations, with Wales having overcome Italy thanks to a comfortable 42-0 scoreline, while Ireland had to battle past a determined Scotland side, eventually winning out 19-12 in Dublin.

They were solid starts to the reigns of Pivac and Andy Farrell respectively, with elements of evolution in each side noticeable. New attack coaches Stephen Jones and Mike Catt are both keen to play a more expansive style of rugby after years of direct attack under their predecessors.

In the Warren Gatland v Joe Schmidt era the games between the two nations were fairly even. Discounting the Rugby World Cup warm-up matches, there were six meetings in the Six Nations with Wales winning three, Ireland winning two and a 16-16 draw in in 2016.

All of the wins in that time were home games, and you have to go back to 2012 for the last time the Welsh won in Dublin when a try for George North, a brace for Jon Davies and eight points from Leigh Halfpenny including a late match-winning penalty secured a 21-23 win at the Aviva Stadium.

The last time the sides met was that famous game at the Principality Stadium last March when Wales impressively won the Grand Slam thanks to a 25-7 win, while Ireland won 37-27 the last time this fixture was played at the Aviva Stadium on their way to a Grand Slam of their own in 2018.

Hadleigh Parkes Ireland

In order to continue their push for another title, Ireland have stuck with the side that beat Scotland last week as much as possible, only being forced into two replacements due to injury.

In the back row there is a reshuffle as Caelan Doris misses out after the head injury suffered last weekend with CJ Stander switching around to number eight and Peter O’Mahony coming in on the blindside flank.

Then in the backs there is a change at outside centre where Robbie Henshaw starts in place of the injured Garry Ringrose.

Keith Earls returns to fitness to cover the outside backs from the bench while Leinster’s Max Deegan could make his debut as he covers the back row.

Ireland: Jordan Larmour; Andrew Conway, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Jonathan Sexton (c), Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Max Deegan, John Cooney, Ross Byrne, Keith Earls

Tadhg Furlong Ireland

There is also a theme of consistency in the Welsh team selection, with just one change although it is a tactical one rather than an injury enforced switch.

Nick Tompkins will make his first Wales start, coming in at outside centre, with George North reverting to the wing and Johnny McNicholl drops to the bench.

There is a freshening up of the replacements generally as Rhys Carre returns from suspension to cover loosehead, Adam Beard is the second row back up as Cory Hill has picked up a knock, Gareth Davies will provide scrum-half back up after returning to fitness, and Owen Williams is preferred to Jarrod Evans courtesy of being able to cover centre.

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Nick Tompkins, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones, Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Rhys Carre, Leon Brown, Adam Beard, Ross Moriarty, Gareth Davies, Owen Williams, Johnny McNicholl

Nick Tompkins Italy

Unfortunately the weather is set to have a serious impact on the game with a Storm sweeping in off the Atlantic and bringing with it gale force winds and heavy rain.

As a result Wales will have to up the quality of the set piece dramatically, particularly the scrum, as it was penalised on at least three occasions last week. Whether agreed with or not, offering a good picture for the referee is as key as anything.

Whoever is dominant in the set piece is likely to get the upper hand in the game, with the pressure created by the subsequent territory and possession, but executing will be the next toughest task in what are likely to be tough conditions for going through the phases.

 

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