At times, it can be difficult to play against Warren Gatland’s teams. On occasion, it’s predictable – but hard to stop.
Wales have been consistent so far in this tournament – they’re not playing unbelievable rugby but they’re getting results, so their confidence will be high and they have momentum behind them.
Playing in Cardiff is always special but when there’s a Grand Slam at stake, even more so. Wales will be confident and Warren will have them primed and ready to go. It’ll be very difficult for Ireland on Saturday.
Against Wales, you need go-forward ball. The pack have to lay down a platform for the backs. Wales give up scores – France went 16-0 up against them – so although their defence is very good, and very resilient, they can be got at.
Ireland will have to spread the ball, move it wide and test them in those channels, which is where teams usually allow you space. They’ll need to find those gaps out wide and set up one-on-ones for people like Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale. That’s where they can find success against this Welsh side.
A lot of the time with Ireland, the plan has been to test teams in the air by going after them early with the kicking game. But Wales are one of the strongest teams in the world at dealing with that – I’ve been on the receiving end when Ireland have tried it and come off second-best.
Ireland will have to be able to stop Wales doing it to us and to be able to match them in the air. Wales will try to get the crowd into the game, by sticking the kicks up on our back three. They’ll have a lot of tricks up their sleeve. But this game is likely to come down to penalties, discipline and maintaining control of the match.
It’ll be down to small margins.
Wales are going for a Slam in Cardiff and the atmosphere will be electric on the day – just imagine if the situation was reversed; in that scenario Ireland would really fancy their chances. Wales will have seen what England did to Ireland and will take the blueprint from that.
Ireland back on track?
The England match was a bit of a shock, and the Italy game really didn’t help the confidence too much. The win against the French was good for morale, but France were very very poor, so I wouldn’t be saying Ireland are back to their best based on that result alone.
But it will certainly have given us momentum and confidence going into this huge weekend. Ireland should now be in the right place mentally to go and get the job done.
The Schmidt Six Nations era is over
I think the team will be fine. Coaches come and go, and the one constant remains the players, so they’ll be focused on the job at hand, which is finishing this tournament strongly and going into the World Cup on form. The players will approach Wales at full throttle and try to take that into September.
Regardless of what Joe does, it won’t make too much difference to the players in the long run. He’s done great things for Irish rugby, but the players won’t be thinking about that now.
The players have adapted to Joe and he’s won competitions with them. The Six Nations has been a great tournament to play in and the players love playing in it, and we’ve had a lot of success in recent years. There’s no reason why the current group won’t be able to continue that after Joe steps aside.