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Horan Welcomes Wales Challenge

Horan Welcomes Wales Challenge

The third round of matches in the 2008 Six Nations has set up a fascinating finish to the tournament, with so much now riding on Ireland’s March 8 clash with Wales at Croke Park.

Marcus Horan, a try scorer in Ireland’s 34-13 victory over Scotland on Saturday, feels the team is improving with each passing game and that preparation will be key if they are to knock the unbeaten Welsh off their perch.

The prop said: “Wales will be coming here (to Croke Park) for the first time in two weeks’ time. They’re playing for something, we’re playing for something so it’s great to have competition like that. Everyone’s going to relish it.

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“All we can do as players is prepare as well as we can for it. Things have been going well, we’re all happy with the improvements that have been made since the first game (against Italy).

“If we can keep moving upwards like that, we’ll be a lot better again in the next game.”

The Munster man is unconcerned about the fact that Ireland’s must-win showdown with Wales will no doubt be talked up as a personal battle between Eddie O’Sullivan and current Welsh boss Warren Gatland, who coached Ireland between 1998 and 2001.

“I don’t think there’s too many players that were involved with Warren that are still here. I got my first cap with Warren alright but I was never involved with him again after that,” Horan admitted.

“I suppose he does have a reputation, even after his time with Ireland over in Wasps.

“We know the Welsh players very well and they know us – we play each other regularly in the Magners League. We know the ins and outs of their game and vice versa.

“The battles are going to be pretty good right across the field. Everyone’s relishing it and looking forward to it.”

Horan’s try against the Scots – his first score since he dotted down against South Africa in November 2006 – saw him collect a cross-field kick from his Munster colleague Ronan O’Gara and provide Ireland with the perfect start to the second half.

The 30-year-old made the try look simple and explained afterwards that Tommy Bowe, who was lurking beside when the kick came across, gave him some good-natured ribbing about denying him a hat-trick.

“I have to listen to Tommy inside (in the dressing room). He was on for a hat-trick so I might have to buy him a drink. But he only had one at that stage so he can’t argue,” Horan added with a wry smile.

“I knew the kick was coming. I looked up and saw the space there. Myself and Bernard Jackman were just in the previous ruck and we hung out there (on the right wing).

“Rog (Ronan O’Gara) had a look and saw it was me and hesitated a small bit but he dropped it right in the bread basket.

“I lost it in the lights a bit but it was nice to score a try like that at Croke Park. It’s a bit of a trademark for Rog, those cross-field kicks, but who is on the end of it is up to the rest of the team. It’s nice, I enjoyed it.

“It’s a dream for all the boys, I suppose, to score at Croke Park and I’ve done it now and it can’t be taken away – not even Tommy Bowe can take it!”

Reviewing the Scottish game, Horan was pleased with parts of the performance but insisted that the squad still have plenty to work on ahead of the visit of an unbeaten Welsh side. 

“It was a good result, winning any Six Nations game is good. We spent a lot of time defending early on and through parts of the second half and we can’t afford to do that against teams like Wales and England.

“It’s important that we work on that and we will of course. We’ve two weeks to the next game and if we can fix things like that, it will come good.

“It’s been building and we’re improving and I think if we can go up another gear for the next game, as we have been doing, we’re going to reach good heights,” he said.