Ireland Vs Wales – The 5 Biggest Talking Points Ahead Of Their Huge Six Nations Battle
For Wales a Six Nations Grand Slam is on the line as they look to give Warren Gatland the perfect Championship send-off before he gets set to walk away from his role after the World Cup in Japan.
For Ireland it’s much of the same, with Joe Schmidt also set to walk away after rugby’s showpiece in Japan. But things are a little more complicated in terms of a successive Championship. A win will set them on their way. But they’ll need the Scots to do them a favour against England to defend their title.
Here are five of the biggest talking points ahead of Saturday’s showdown.
Tadhg Beirne starts for Ireland.
The Munster man has had to bide his time but an unfortunate injury to Iain Henderson means he’s in the starting line-up this weekend against a team he will know all too well. The lock spent two very successful years in Wales with the Scarlets and could be a very powerful weapon for Ireland this weekend. A devastating ball-carrier that can poach better than anyone in Europe right now. Big day for the 27-year-old.
Wales are unchanged.
Gatland has gone with an unchanged side for this weekend’s clash, despite not firing on all cylinders against Scotland last weekend. You wouldn’t have questioned him if he started Dan Biggar to deal with Ireland’s aerial threat and add a more controlled and well organised head to his backline. But Gatland knows best. Usually when a team gets settled in terms of selection they’ve a better chance of going al the way, just look at Ireland last year. Wales’ best rugby could yet be still ahead of them.
Another year, another Principality stadium roof battle. Ireland as the away team have first preference and have suggested they want it open. But Wales have gone above their heads and straight to the Six Nations to attempt to overrule them and close it given the bad weather that’s expected. The outcome will be interesting after Schmidt accused Wales of over-watering the pitch the last time after they in good faith – allowed Wales to decide in 2017 and close the roof.
Gatland vs Schmidt.
Luke Fitzgerald this week said Gatland is one of the few men that manages to get under Joe Schmidt’s skin. The two New Zealanders have exchanged plenty of words through the press over the years and will both want to bow out of the Six Nations with a win. And whoever wins on Saturday will finish with the better head-to-head record making it all the more important to both of them.
And of course let’s not forget there’s a Championship on the line. Ireland love spoiling a party (and ending unbeaten records) and can still win the Six Nations should Scotland do them a favour against England. And with that game not kicking off until after the clash in Cardiff – Saturday’s game is essentially a title match, even though Ireland may not be champions by the end of the day even if they win. You can only play what’s in front of you – and these two giants will be fired up and ready to go.