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RBS 6 Nations Preview: Ireland v Wales

RBS 6 Nations Preview: Ireland v Wales

Ireland have fond memories of playing Wales last year but the sides’ 2008 meeting at Croke Park resulted in a tight Welsh win, so Brian O’Driscoll and his team-mates will be doubly determined to slay the Dragons this afternoon and keep themselves in the hunt for silverware.


IRELAND v WALES, Croke Park, 2.30pm (live RTE Two/BBC One)

Team News: Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll will win his 100th cap for his country when he leads out the team against Wales at Croke Park. Head coach Declan Kidney has named an unchanged starting line-up for the game.

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O’Driscoll will become the second Irish player and thirteenth in world rugby to hit the century mark in national caps. The game against Wales will be his 63rd as Ireland captain.

Lock Donncha O’Callaghan will also reach a milestone when he earns his 60th cap for Ireland.

There is one change to the replacements bench with full-back Rob Kearney, who has recovered from the knee injury he picked up against France, coming in for Andrew Trimble.

Commenting on the selection call at full-back, Kidney said: “Geordan (Murphy) was playing well all last season I thought. He had been injured for quite some time and answered the call last time out against England.

“I thought he was unlucky in about game four of last year’s Six Nations not to get the nod again, and I thought he played well enough against England to warrant giving him a second test.

“Rob has worked really hard at getting back in, it’s not like he has done anything wrong. But I’ve just sided with Geordan on this one.”

He added: “(At number 10) I’m sure everybody is going to be talking about 10. That is I wouldn’t say a welcome difficulty, but I said it before that we are fortunate to have two great 10s and I think that’s what we have.

“There are other players too, I think Andrew was very unlucky to lose out on this one because he has done very well every time he has come in.”

Meanwhile, Martyn Williams will captain Wales in Saturday’s encounter with Ireland, as regular skipper Ryan Jones has been ruled out with a calf injury.

Jones’ place at number 8 has been taken by Gareth Delve in one of three changes to the Welsh starting line-up.

Hooker Matthew Rees also returns to the side with Huw Bennett, who started the recent defeat to France, moving to the replacements bench.

Lock Luke Charteris keeps his spot after coming on for the injured Deiniol Jones early in the first half of the French game.

Elsewhere, Wales head coach Warren Gatland has said ‘same again’ to his back-line for the third game in-a-row and made two changes on the bench with the inclusion of scrum half Dwayne Peel and lock Ian Gough.

Gatland said: “We have taken the decision not to include any players who are unable to take a full part in training in the build-up to the Ireland game.

“This Ireland side will be meticulous in its planning and for this game in particular we need to get our preparation exactly right and once we had reached that conclusion, a couple of selection decisions were really made for us.

“Ryan has been managing his calf, but it has hampered his involvement in training and he needs to get it right for his own sake as well as for his region, who have some big matches of their own coming up, and for the sake of the national cause as we countdown to the World Cup.

“Mike (Phillips) is carrying a knock which he picked up on Ospreys duty at the weekend and so was not in contention.

“But this is an opportunity for Martyn (Williams), who is one of our key leaders, to captain Wales again and rise to that challenge after doing a good job against Scotland last year when Ryan was again forced to withdraw.”

IRELAND: Geordan Murphy (Leicester Tigers); Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Brian O’Driscoll (UCD/Leinster) (capt), Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster); Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Tomas O’Leary (Dolphin/Munster); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), John Hayes (Bruff/Munster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster), Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster), David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster), Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster).

Replacements: Sean Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht), Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster), Leo Cullen (Blackrock College/Leinster), Shane Jennings (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster).

WALES: Lee Byrne (Ospreys); Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), James Hook (Ospreys), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Shane Williams (Ospreys); Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Richie Rees (Cardiff Blues); Paul James (Ospreys), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Cardiff Blues), Luke Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues) (capt), Gareth Delve (Gloucester).

Replacements: Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Rhys Gill (Saracens), Ian Gough (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues), Dwayne Peel (Sale Sharks), Andrew Bishop (Ospreys), Tom Shanklin (Cardiff Blues).

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Chris White (England), Peter Allan (Scotland)
Television Match Official: Jim Yuille (Scotland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland to win: 1/4; Draw: 22/1; Wales to win: 3/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland) – “We’ve been reasonably proud of our record at Croke Park but Wales two years ago was one of our less memorable days. We want to finish our last couple of games there on a high.

“There is an element of motivation in that they’ve said they don’t find it a difficult place to come and play. The one time they’ve come here they’ve won. We need to turn that around.

“We got on fine (with the Welsh players) on the Lions tour. I always got on well with Warren (Gatland) when he was coaching Ireland.

“There were certainly no issues when we’ve been on Lions tours. Warren’s a very different coach from 10 years ago, as I am as a player.

“We all move on and Warren’s already alluded to that in the papers this week. He apologised for any upset that he may caused so it’s water the bridge.

“I’m just looking forward to another game. The time to think about these sort of things (the 100 caps achievement) is when you’re sitting on the couch during retirement.

“I’m just treating it as another week and enjoying it as any other match. It’s nice getting lots of text messages coming in from past players and past legends and friends of the game.

“That’s lovely and makes it a bit different to other Test matches but I don’t see any reason to get caught up in the hype of it all.

“Playing 101 Test matches is more impressive than 100, so John Hayes should be up there.”

Warren Gatland (Wales) – “I think we are the only (Six Nations) team Ireland haven’t beaten at Croke Park, and we would like to keep it that way if possible.

“The last two games between the teams have been very close. Ireland were in front at half-time two years ago, and last year it went down to the wire (in Cardiff) – either team could have won it.

“Ireland are very clinical, and when they get opportunities they tend to take them.

“When you have won a Grand Slam you are the top dog and everyone is gunning for you. People realise you are champions from the previous season.

“France were pretty motivated against Ireland in Paris a few weeks ago, and our challenge is that we are against the Six Nations champions at Croke Park.

“We need to make sure we are not behind. We’ve made it difficult for ourselves by conceding soft points (in recent matches), particularly in first halves, and having to chase the game a bit.

“If we get to half-time and the game is very close and very tight, we are confident we can perform and finish well in the second half.

“It doesn’t matter who you are playing against, the Six Nations is a tough tournament.

“Winning away from home is always special, whether it is against Ireland, England, France, and that is what we are trying to do on Saturday.”

Pre-Match Links –

Match Countdown: Ireland v Wales

‘One Of The Best’ – Kiss Pays Tribute To O’Driscoll

Brian’s Blog: Rest, Food And 100 Caps

Irish Rugby TV: Stephen Ferris

Irish Rugby TV: Brian O’Driscoll

O’Leary Motivated By Silverware Shot

Head-To-Head: Ireland v Wales

Recent Meetings –

2005 RBS 6 Nations: Wales 32 Ireland 20, Millennium Stadium 
2006 RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 31 Wales 5, Lansdowne Road 
2007 RBS 6 Nations: Wales 9 Ireland 19, Millennium Stadium 
2008 RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 12 Wales 16, Croke Park 
2009 RBS 6 Nations: Wales 15 Ireland 17, Millennium Stadium