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RBS Six Nations – Ireland v Wales

RBS Six Nations –  Ireland v Wales

“We won’t let him have that much time on the ball again. We won’t let him make decisions. We’ll get up in his face and smash him.” is how Brian O’Driscoll intends dealing with Iestyn Harris

Ireland and Wales’s ambitions of breaking
Anglo-French domination of the RBS Six Nations will be under scrutiny
when the
Celtic countries meet here at Lansdowne Road today.

Since rugby turned professional in 1995, England and France’s
monopoly of
the championship has been interrupted only once, by Scotland, in
However, during that same period, Ireland have established
themselves as a
credible ‘third force’ in European rugby, upsetting both the big boys
occasion although lacking title-winning consistency.

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But they appear to have hit something of a brick wall of late and
were well
beaten in France last weekend.

Meanwhile Wales carried on from where they left off at the World
Cup with a
convincing opening round win against Scotland in Cardiff.

But Wales, for all their considerable first-half panache, faded
after the
break – something they cannot afford to do against Ireland who have
won their
last four meetings with the men in red shirts.

Ireland have captain Brian O’Driscoll back after the centre missed
Paris defeat with a hamstring injury.

That result confirmed the belief that without O’Driscoll Ireland
lack a
cutting edge; another established view is that when he plays all good
have to do is stop him and they stop Ireland too.

And that may explain why O’Driscoll finds himself returning to a
back division.
Coach Eddie O’Sullivan has taken the bold step of dropping Kevin
rock of Ireland’s midfield defence, and replacing him with wing
Gordon D’Arcy,
who made his first Test start against France.

D’Arcy is in O’Driscoll’s regular Test spot of outside centre with
skipper in the No.12 jersey instead.
However O’Sullivan has persisted in keeping Shane Horgan on the
right wing
rather than play him in his club position of inside centre.

D’Arcy, O’Driscoll and Horgan all play for Leinster yet not one of
them is
in their provincial places.

O’Sullivan was unapologetic. “We’re going for a slightly
different angle on
midfield. We’ve two similar-type ball players. He (D’Arcy) is a
game-breaker from Kevin Maggs, more elusive, more capable of
distributing from
other parts of the field.”

Up front Donncha O’Callaghan makes his first start, replacing the
experienced Malcolm O’Kelly in the second row.

Wales skipper Colin Charvis misses the game with a finger injury,
captaincy taken by fellow loose-forward Martyn Williams, who was
involved in
creating two tries against Scotland, with Jonathan Thomas now
completing the

But the pack is bolstered by the return from injury of hooker
Robin McBryde
and lock Robert Sidoli in place of Mefin Davies and Gareth Llewellyn
“It’s disappointing to lose Colin who has been playing good
Test rugby as
well as growing into a strong leader,” said Wales coach Steve

“It’s now important that our designated lieutenants stand up
and be counted
in helping Martyn lead the side. We are looking forward to travelling
Dublin and playing a game of rugby we can all be proud of.”
Girvan Dempsey (Leinster); Shane Horgan (Leinster), Gordon D’Arcy
(Leinster), Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster, capt), Tyrone Howe (Ulster);
O’Gara (Munster), Peter Stringer (Munster); Anthony Foley (Munster),
Gleeson (Leinster), Simon Easterby (Llanelli/WAL); Paul O’Connell
capt), Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster); John Hayes (Munster), Shane
(Leinster), Reggie Corrigan (Leinster)

Replacements: Frank Sheahan (Munster), Simon Best (Ulster),
Malcolm O’Kelly
(Leinster), Victor Costello (Leinster), Guy Easterby (Rotherham/ENG),
Humphreys (Ulster), Kevin Maggs (Bath/ENG)

Gareth Thomas (Celtic Warriors); Rhys Williams (Cardiff), Sonny
(Celtic Warriors), Iestyn Harris (Cardiff), Shane Williams
Stephen Jones (Llanelli), Gareth Cooper (Celtic Warriors); Dafydd
(Llanelli), Martyn Williams (Cardiff, capt), Jonathan Thomas
Robert Sidoli (Celtic Warriors), Brent Cockbain (Celtic Warriors);
Adam Jones
(Neath-Swansea), Robin McBryde (Llanelli), Iestyn Thomas (Llanelli)
Replacements: Mefin Davies (Celtic Warriors), Gethin Jenkins
Warriors), Michael Owen (Dragons), Alix Popham (Leeds/ENG), Dwayne
(Llanelli), Ceri Sweeney (Celtic Warriors), Tom Shanklin (Cardiff)

Referee: Joel Jutge (FRA)