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Countdown To Cardiff: One Day To Go

Countdown To Cardiff: One Day To Go

…Kidney Determined To Soak It All Up…Smal Expects ‘Challenging’ Scrums…Rankings Scenario For Final Weekend…Say What?…Numbers Game…

KIDNEY DETERMINED TO SOAK IT ALL UP: Declan Kidney may be on the cusp of Irish rugby immortality but he seemed cool as a cucumber on the eve of Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations title decider against Wales.

Asked about the hype and clamour surrounding the crunch Cardiff tie, Kidney said: “We were always going to play Wales last match but to have so much involved on it adds a little bit of spice.

“It’s a huge privilege to be here. These are the occasions you are in sport for. You just want to enjoy it and that is what everyone must do.

“We have given ourselves a chance. We are away from home against the defending champions in their own backyard. It doesn’t come any tougher than that.”

Typically, Kidney deflected any personal praise aimed at him in favour of talking about his players.

“I am delighted for the players. They’ve worked really hard, and I know they are going to give their all tomorrow.

“I’ve always enjoyed watching Ireland play ever since I first saw them play on a black and white television.

“I’ve been put in a situation now where I have a job to do, the lads have a job to do and we will go about our business.”

Team captain Brian O’Driscoll has played down the importance of Saturday’s game, insisting that he and his team-mates are just treating it as another must-win 80 minutes.

“There is no need to make the situation any bigger than it is,” he said.

“I’ve been fortunate to play against Wales a lot of times. I’ve come out on the right result a few times and lost a few. We’ll be doing everything we possibly can to get the right result on Saturday.”

SMAL EXPECTS ‘CHALLENGING’ SCRUMS: Ireland forwards coach Gert Smal was understandably not happy with the pressure Scotland were able to exert in the scrums during last weekend’s RBS 6 Nations tie at Murrayfield.

The Irish scrum has been widely praised for its consistency throughout the Championship, but there were a number of free-kicks or penalties given away at the set piece against the Scots.

The South African has done plenty of homework on Wayne Barnes, the referee in charge of the Wales v Ireland game, in order to gauge how Ireland might get an advantage in the scrums.

“We weren’t happy with our performance in the scrums last week,” Smal admitted. 

“I spoke to (the referee) Jonathan Kaplan afterwards and also looked at one of the games Wayne Barnes did with Ireland-Wales before.

“We looked specifically at that and addressed the problems that they had, so we’ll be ready.

“It depends also on how they (referees) have been briefed beforehand. The opposition will always speak to him and put pressure on him in certain areas. It’s important that we plan properly and be accurate.

“Wales aren’t bad. They’d be a good scrummaging pack. It will be challenging.

“But it’s all about our planning and preparation, which is mostly done. It’s all in place, just the Captain’s run and then it’s the big day.”

RANKINGS SCENARIO FOR FINAL WEEKEND: The prospect of Ireland claiming a first Grand Slam for 61 years is dominating the headlines ahead of the final RBS 6 Nations weekend of 2009, and if they do so by beating Wales in Cardiff on Saturday then they will retain fourth position in the IRB World Rankings.

Ireland jumped two places to fourth following their 22-15 away victory over Scotland last weekend and will remain the highest ranked northern Hemisphere nation providing they avoid defeat.

In fact, they could actually close to within two points of Australia above them.

This would require a win by more than 15 points at the Millennium Stadium, although Ireland has not managed such a convincing win in Cardiff since a 36-6 triumph in October 2001.

They did, though, triumph 19-9 on their last visit across the Irish Sea in 2007.

Any loss for Wales, allied with an England victory over Scotland at Twickenham, will see the 2008 champions slide two places to seventh, falling beneath Argentina and England.

They could actually end up less than a hundredth above France if les Bleus also beat Italy convincingly.

However, if Wales break Irish hearts then they will take over fourth position with Ireland returning to sixth and Argentina climbing one to fifth. Wales must win by over 13 points to remain champions and a margin of more than 15 points could see Ireland fall to seventh.

For that to happen England would need to reproduce the kind of display that saw them account for France last weekend to convincingly beat Scotland, something they have managed with a winning margin of at least 21 points in the last four meetings between the arch rivals at Twickenham.

England will climb one place to sixth in the event that they win and either Wales lose or Ireland suffer a heavy loss, while Scotland will slide one to 10th in defeat with Fiji the beneficiaries.

For Scotland to improve their ranking of ninth, they must record a first win over England at Twickenham since March 1983 and France also to lose by more than 15 points for the second weekend running – having lost 34-10 away to England last Sunday.

Scotland could potentially climb another place to seventh, although they would also need to beat England by a similar margin to leapfrog both their opponents and France. England would slide one to eighth only if France win and they lose by more than 15 points.

Italy have not beaten France in 12 years, but if they can end their RBS 6 Nations campaign on a high with victory at the Stadio Flaminio then they will return to 11th, swapping places with Samoa. They would still trail Scotland or Fiji, though, by over a rating point.


“Andy has got a bit of a sore quad. He didn’t do the whole session so we will see how he pulls up from that.

“It is a slight concern. He pulled out of the session because his quad was pretty tight.”

– Wales coach Warren Gatland describes the thigh muscle injury which forced number 8 Andy Powell out of Friday’s training session at the Millennium Stadium. Powell is a late injury worry for the hosts but there is no confirmation yet of how serious the injury is

“We will enjoy the situation. You are a professional rugby player to be involved in moments like this, those pressurised situations, a great atmosphere in one of the best stadiums in the world.

“It would mean a lot. It would be a great achievement, but words aren’t worth a huge amount at the moment. We will try and do all our chatting tomorrow, through the 80 minutes.

“It is a case of trying to beat another quality Test team. Our sole focus is on winning the game.”

Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll reflects the mood in the Irish camp as he takes about the approach to the Wales game and what it would mean to annex the Grand Slam

“It would be an outstanding achievement for a team that last autumn people were wondering what was happening with them.

“There was a lot of talk about what was going wrong and why we weren’t able to transfer our form into a green jersey. There was a camp at Christmas which rectified a lot of those questions.

“A lot of people had to come up with answers that maybe weren’t the most comfortable to deal with but it is paying off now.

“This will be as big a match as I’ve played in. It would be huge anyway playing against some of my team-mates in Wales but given what is at stake it’s going to be enormous.”

– Ireland winger Tommy Bowe discusses the Irish squad’s gradual improvements into becoming Grand Slam contenders this season and what lies ahead for him on Saturday when he lines out against some of his Ospreys team-mates at the Millennium Stadium


10 – Ireland have won 10 Championship titles, the last coming back in 1985 when Ciaran Fitzgerald was captain of the side.

If they manage to beat Wales on Saturday, it will be an 11th Championship success, 2nd Grand Slam and 10th Triple Crown triumph for the nation

2 – Two is the number of tries Wales have managed to score against Ireland in the sides’ last three RBS 6 Nations meeting.

Mark Jones touched down in the 31-5 defeat to the Irish at Lansdowne Road in 2006 and just over twelve months ago Shane Williams grabbed the game’s only try in Wales’ Triple Crown-clinching 16-12 success at Croke Park

3 – Not a statistic that the Ireland players or fans will like to consider, but Wales prevented Ireland from winning the Grand Slam on three occasions during the Five Nations era – in 1926, 1951 and 1969

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