Key Clash Preview: Ireland v Wales

Following last week’s joint Key Clash Preview for the Scotland v England match, we have our second one, this time between Jeff Pagano, our Ireland writer, and Paul French, who covers Wales for us.

Try Wales v Ireland

Date: Saturday, October 8, 2011
Time: 6.00pm NZDT/6.00am BST
Venue: Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington
Referee:  Craig Joubert (RSA)

This squad went from very ugly August ducklings to beautiful September swans, but they still need a win to get further in the World Cup than an Irish team ever has before. Rory Best’s recovery from shoulder issues means Declan Kidney can put out the exact same match day 22 that made easy work of the Italians, and it helps send out a powerful message that they don’t intend to give up their 100% record in this tournament lightly.

Wales find themselves in an unexpected position. Having exceeded all expectations during the group stages, they now find themselves against the surprise team of the tournament, and Celtic cousins, Ireland. The momentum built up in the last month, is very evident in Warren Gatland’s selection. It would have been almost inconceivable prior to the tournament starting that a fit James Hook would not even make the starting Welsh XV or that Stephen Jones would miss out completely. A supposed Achilles’ heel, inexperience, has turned out to be Wales’s greatest strength so far. The fearlessness demonstrated by the likes of George North and Toby Faletau has seen the team move on considerably from where they were during the Six Nations.

What to expect: Ireland
Ireland’s success has come more from what they do without the ball than with it. Expect 80 minutes of tough tackling coupled with an acute awareness of when Gatland mixes things up by springing the likes of James Hook and Ryan Jones from the bench. On offence, a territory game similar to that which did for the Wallabies is likely to be the way to go. In the pack, whatever about what Nick Mallett might have claimed, THIS is the front row battle we’ve been waiting for. The Welsh may be lacking in caps compared to their opponents elsewhere on the pitch, but certainly not in the propping department. Referee, Craig Joubert, will have his work cut out at scrum time that’s for sure!

What to expect: Wales
Question marks still remain over Wales’s accuracy in the line out and in the tight. In the two tight group games they played, against the Samoans’ and Springboks’ those two areas were still exposed. Ireland have already shown their ability in this tournament to put the squeeze on upfront and cut opposition ball at source, notably against the Wallabies, and Wales could really suffer if they struggle to retain ball. Should enough ball be secured though, they will look to their two main ball carriers in Faletau and Roberts to get them over the game line and create space for the ability they have behind.

All eyes on: 
Ronan O’Gara: We all know what Ronan can do with the boot, and with the back row competition bound to be fierce, he will certainly get chances to add to his 1070 career test points. Plus, with the conditions expected to be wet in Wellington, this will suit his territory game down to the ground. But he also has a reputation for being a bit soft on the tackling side, and no doubt the Welsh will see him as a tender spot in the Ireland defence. The Munster legend will be keen to prove this assumption wrong and keep the gate down his channel firmly shut.

Rhys Priestland
has been an absolute revelation since coming into the Welsh number ten shirt. Having been in the shadow of regional team-mate Stephen Jones for the duration of his career, the 24-year-old has taken his opportunity with both hands. Having struggled at times against South Africa, his credentials as an international outside half will be truly tested under the pressure of a World Cup quarter-final, his game management will have to be spot on.

Head to Head: Sean O’Brien v Sam Warburton
Jeff: O’Brien may be inspiring many a quote on Twitter these days with the hashtag #seanobrienfacts going around, but it’s a quote of his own that is most telling : “If there isn’t a hole, I’ll make one”. He’ll have 7 on his back but with Jamie Heaslip likely to take on the clearing out duties, Sean has shown that no matter what the opposition he has no problem getting focused on doing what he does best – driving the opposition on the back foot and keeping them there.
Paul: Two of the stand out players of the tournament prepare to lock horns with each other. Warburton, unlike O’Brien is a specialist openside, has had a very successful tournament so far in turning over and slowing down opposition ball. Wales will be looking to their captain to give them the edge at the breakdown against the converted Irish blindside.

Last fixture: Wales won 19-13 in Cardiff after a dour contest which will probably be best remembered for “that quick line out”.

Weather: Forecast for Saturday evening in Wellington is “Cloudy with showers. Temp 9°C “

Jeff: When it comes to form at this tournament, these two teams are evenly matched all over the park. But when it comes to big match experience and winning the big contests that matter, Ireland have the edge. Still – it’s so close to call that I can’t make any other win prediction than the narrowest one possible, and that’s Ireland by one.
Paul: While I believe that Wales are certainly capable of causing an upset in their current vein of form, I have an overriding sense that a lack of big game experience will catch up with them. In contrast Ireland are full of players who have consistently demonstrated a real nous for getting wins, both in the Heineken Cup and internationally. As a result I think the Irish will edge certain areas of the game, such as the set piece, and come away with a narrow win. Ireland by 3.

by JL Pagano and Paul French

31 thoughts on “Key Clash Preview: Ireland v Wales

  1. Learn from history – We have to take out the ball boy early on after that it will be plain sailing for Ireland. No pressure!

    1. Wales won that fairly. Why? This is why:
      We were too greedy to get better field position for the conversion, but forgot that the try was more important, we barely beat Italy then, and we had it coming – tempting fate! lol Is another finale like that on the cards? I hope not. My fingers will be nailess if they do that to me again!

      1. and they did it again. This time greed for tries. O’Gara is only really good at kicking so why didn’t he kick the 3 pens in the first half that could have made it 12-10 to us at the break? Kidney should retire. He’s out of his depth at this level. He’s done great but naiive disrespect of the Welsh defense is his ultimate failing. You kick your pens against a defense like that – simple. You have to do it to stay in the game. When we got the early try then in the 2nd. half it could have been 19-10 to us and our tails would have been up, not theirs. Wales were the better team, tactically and slightly better physically too. We blew allot of hot air, and lacked class in attack.

  2. Interestingly, if it’s Ireland by one, that will be the second time in a world cup that Ireland edged Wales by one. I think it was 24 23 in a previous world cup. Ireland by one could as easily be Wales by one. I’m gonna make a prediction. This match will be won by 2 scores (<7) by either team – can't pick which one. Hope it's Ireland of course. One thing that gives me heart – we'll be playing with the exact same team we did against Italy. Wales have made 4 changes. It seems to me that Ireland are focusing on their own game more. Wales will be more tactical. Ireland will be more flowing but we'll have to wait and see. My wish is that Ireland play this match the same way we did against Italy. It won't be as one sided as that game though me thinks, but Ireland won the battle of nerves against Italy! What a contest we have in store. Better to be playing in it I think than be watching it, less nervy. I'd like to see Trimble come on at some point if it's in the melting pot and we lack movement on the wing, and Sexton to come on early if things go well early. It's Ireland that have guaranteed a 'Celtic' nation goes into the semis so I hope we go on and win it. We deserve it a tiny bit more imo. Words cannot describe the epic anticipation of this game. If it ends up being very one sided on either side, I wouldn't be surprised – it's a match that nobody can seem to predict with any certainty. I think this match will be won in the mind. As O'Driscoll said, it will be 'Whoever shows up on the day.' May the best team win.

  3. This game is far to close to call it really is, as epicness has already said may the best team win!! I obviously hope it is Ireland but should Wales win I will be cheering and hoping they go all the way themselves! Should be a cracker cant wait :-)


  4. @epicness
    Just threw that one in to get the ball rolling – Didn’t think you would run in the wrong direction with it! —- ” it’s a match that nobody can seem to predict with any certainty” you say. Here you go – “Ireland will win” – certainty. Are you happy now?

  5. The only people calling this game “too close to call” are the majority of numpties who haven’t tried hard enough to work it out. Ireland will win the question is by how many. Too much experience and ultimately class in the team. Barring some ridiculous officiating like in Cardiff, Wales can’t win this.
    Look at the respective pool games, Wales struggled with SA and lost a winnable game, then struggled past mighty Samoa by 7 pts. An underwhelming Namibia held them uncomfortably close until Wales emptied the bench and scored a mountain of points in the final 20. Fiji were useless and had nothing to play for.
    Ireland continued their rubbish form against USA and then against OZ had their rugby epiphany playing the 1st good game for months. A pointless exercise for the nearly men against Russia followed by a comprhensive slaughter of Italy by slow degrees as the game progressed.
    It’s Ireland’s to win or lose, the Welsh performance may indicate by how many.

    1. Thanks for the input, Mr Trousers, although you’re leaving out one teeny tiny fact – the teams both Ire & Wal have faced in their pools are ones they rarely play against, while they actually play each other every single year. Wales are well used to facing Ireland, and have a coach who has more than a possible semifinal as a motivation to beat them. I reckon you are selling them extremely short. But then again, I’m just a numpty :-)

  6. Mr Baggytrousers anyone who can state “mighty Samoa ” as an attempt at sarcasm obviously has little rugby knowledge and can hardly have watched much of the game this year . Samoa are the best team to have left the tournament at the pool stages and there are one or two other pools where they would probably have walked through as certain qualifiers.Ask South Africa what they think of them .

    It was SA who struggled with Wales for all but 15 mins of that game .

    My concerns for Wales turn around them being a (mostly) young side and youth can sometimes be inconsistent. Having said that they have played well since the first August warm up game and will have no baggage or fear for sure.Not that I disagree with the choice of team as the young ones have been a revelation

    Ireland have experience, some of their players seemed to be hanging around for one World Cup too many based on their warm up but one excellent performance against Australia seems to have turned things around big time.

    Head says too close to call , heart says the men in red of course but I’d settle for any old scrappy win and if Wales are down by three in the 80th min then please please give North the ball with 5 metres to go and only O’ Gara between him and the line .

    Anyway should Wales not win then cheers to Ireland and I’ll be hoping that they will be the first Celtic finalists if we can’t do it.

  7. Well clearly the “too close to call men” are in the majority but unlike Pontylad I believe that is because they are either Welsh in which case fair play to them or pretending at some level of expertise.

    Pontylad, I hope the same as you if Ireland fail tomorrow, give me a Celt any day.

    As for Samoa, yes it was a bit tongue in cheek but the fact is Ireland played them last November, we were truly abysmal & still beat Samoa by a bigger margin than your 7.

    SA, yes you should have won that game, that is my very point, most on the Irish team know how to win Tournaments far fewer on the Welsh side do. I believe that will be a big factor tomorrow morning.

    Finally from me, I do believe the Welsh have found a lot of good young players and their time will come, maybe as early as the 6Ns – not tomorrow. For your sake I hope its not yet another false dawn.

    Ireland have too many experienced players who know they made a nonsense of a good opportunity 4 years ago. There are guys there who have this last chance to have a great RWC, BOD & ROG certainly though I wouldn’t be surprised to see the mighty POC wheel up in England in 2015 if he stays fit. If Ireland hold their nerve I can;t see a Welsh win, I will be happy with a point but believe it could be decent margin if they have their game-faces on & Mr Joubert – a good ref – has a decent game.

    Enjoy it.

    1. Hey there Mr Trousers just to let you know I have a blog of my own and would be happy to publish your thoughts on any rugby topic you choose should you ever wish to share your own undoubted expertise. My email is feel free to contact me! Cheers.

  8. I heard an interview with Robert Jones on 5live in which he was asked whether people in Wales believed that thay could win the World Cup.His reply was,”They never have before.”

    Yesterday’s Independent described the Wales performances as ‘producing rugby that is drop-dead beautiful’. The whole of Wales is excited. 8 of the 22 are aged 23 or under which bodes well for the future.

    I agree that the Irish are more experienced and better in the lineout – though Luke Charteris is keeping Bradley Davies out of the side because of his performances there and if Rory Best does not start then maybe that will help Wales.The Welsh front row is hugely improved by the presence of Gethin Jenkins, though I would have picked Lloyd Burns at hooker.

    I’m not surprised to see Leigh Halfpenny at full back as Gatland played him there in the 2nd half of one of the pre tournament games.

    I’m not going to predict the result – I just hope it is a beautiful flowing game and not a nervous one decided by penalties.At least Ronan O’Gara can’t win it with an 80th minute drop goal – he won’t be on the pitch then!

  9. I will, as always, be avidly supporting Wales tomorrow morning … and dearly hope they will win … just to shut up the rather arrogant BaggyTrousers!!

    1. Sami

      I wish you good luck but I question the word arrogant. Informed, studious, confident, eloquent – these are words that I would have been satisfied by but arrogant is one of those words which raise more questions of the one stating arrogance than the object of the intended slur.

      Arrogant is a word often used by people who simply don’t agree with a strongly stated and held viewpoint. Used as such, it is used badly.

      Its not a pretty word, is often used in the dullest circumstances and I’m sure we can all agree is best left for conversations/statements relating to you eastern neighbours.

      I haven’t once in these statements rubbished or insulted Wales, I love our domestic league and the mixing with the various supporters. I have simply stated what I believe will happen tomorrow morning, If you don’t like it that’s your prerogative, throwing the odd insult is OK with me,I’m big & ugly enough to take it but its a little childish don’t you think?

  10. Steve so my North running at O’Gara scenario in the 80th minute isn’t going to happen then :-(

    Just trying to work out what Robert Jones meant with that answer !

  11. Wales have probably played the more attractive rugby of the two teams, and I think Gatland has made the right choices in picking players on current form in the tournament. That said I still think Ireland have the edge to close the game out. It will undoubtedly be very close come the final whistle, but I predict Ireland by 3 to seven points.

    1. Dazza, there is no question that Wales have indeed played the more attractive rugby. The question is will they get the opportunity to do what they did to Namibia & Fiji and to a far lesser extent against Samoa & SA.

      Ireland will look to suffocate their game as we did against the Aussies, the Welsh pack has more fight in them I think so it will be interesting to see how it pans out.

      Ireland have been efficient rather than attractive.

      I’m not saying Ireland will win the RWC. In fact I’d be astonished and am on record as saying they will not win it in my lifetime but look at the teams who have one it recently and tell me which one did it by played attractive rugby?

      Personally I found the big Bok pack attractive to watch but I suspect that’s not what you are talking about.

  12. JL a kind offer and I may take you up on it as long as you have no objections to the rantings of a rabid Ulsterman. My one reservation is that after my own pure white shirted men I favour Munster and this appears at odds with your site judging by your email address.


    1. On the contrary, sir! Have published rants from all sorts in the past, like one from an English Munster fan who doesn’t think BOD should be captain! So by all means email me and I can tell you more :-)

  13. As a neutral on this one, I think it will be a Wales win. I think Wales have quite a physicality edge in the backs (4 100kg+ beasts), there will be too much heavy traffic coming down the 10/12 channel, and its a much easier game when you are over the gainline. I’ve only seen Jamie Roberts nullified once (when he’s on his A game) by Joe Worsley 6N 2009. The choke tacklers may be waiting, I’ll be seriously impressed if the suceed.

    Game of the tournamount thus far for me, good luck all!

    1. Fair point to an extent, but ROG is a lot braver than given credit for & D’Arcy & BOD have been taking on bigger beasts all of their careers.

      I wouldn’t underestimate the sh!tstorm that will be coming Priestlands way either don’t forget, the Irish back-row are all big men and Ferris & SOB are monsters with plenty of gas.

      To be honest it will come down to the packs as always to decide who wins. I feel Wales may have the edge in the front row in set play but Ireland in the loose, but Ireland’s back five in the pack are awesome & for me have the edge although I do rate Warburton & Wyn-Jones but don’t rate the 3 Drgaons as highly.

    2. Wales were better. O’Gara and Ireland were greedy and went for pressure on the Welsh defense instead of taking penalties. This meant the pressure was always on Ireland and it was too much. Ireland were also greedy in the 6N defeat to Wales. Wallace (P) only had to throw the ball out to Earls on the wing to get the try. but elected to come inside for the easier conversion. Ireland had a great chance to get a second try against Wales today, but O’Driscoll didn’t clear out the ruck and it was turned over, all he had to do was be patient and feed it to O’Connell. The try was on. Again, Irish greed. But not a terrible campaign for us overall. But very disappointing finale. They were disrespectful of the Welsh defense and impatient, and I’m Irish.

  14. Just to add to what’s already been said. I certainly don’t believe this is an easy game to call. It’s fairly unprecedented.

    Firstly Wales and Ireland meeting in a World Cup quarter final, and secondly both sides being on form for a change, playing with a lot of self-belief.

    Let’s hope it really is a Celtic classic and the best team wins, as long as they are playing in red obviously.

  15. Congratulations to Wales from Ireland. MY prediction was right though. I predicted that one team would beat the other by >7. As Brian O’Driscoll said “Whoever shows up on the day will win it” Wales showed up. Ireland did not. We always bottle in the QF stage. Wales are good at that stage. I hope they get to the final now, and are good enough to win this competition. No team will beat them easily. Gatland is a great manger too.

  16. Hats off to Wales. Having watched Ulster humiliated at home to Treviso 2nds it’s hard to take 2 performances like that in less than 24 hours.

    I believed every word I wrote yesterday – shows how much I know!!! SOB stuffed by Warburton was key and all over the pitch Wales won their match ups.

    Wales need to believe from here in & they could yet shock everyone. Priestland & Phillips were superb & for once there was none of the usual rubbishy stuff from Phillips, just very good scrum half play.

    Good luck Wales.

  17. Not much to be gained by looking to aportion blame,especially the coach – a bit of a soft target.
    Wales played better rugby, wish them well and get over it.

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