RBS Six Nations 2013: Wales vs Ireland Prediction

conor murray

Regardless of where you think the trophy will end up – and this promises to be the most open tournament for quite a while – the imminent Six Nations is certain to feature some terrifically tight contests. In front of a capacity crowd at the Millennium Stadium, Saturday’s opener in Cardiff could well be one of the closest. Desperate to banish autumn embarrassment, the hosts welcome a resurgent set of Irishmen. Expect the competition to explode into life at the earliest possible opportunity.

Reasons to back Wales

In the wake of an epic injury crisis, Rob Howley has still been able to field a robust front row, on reputation at least. Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees and Adam Jones – the gnarled trio of British and Irish Lions that stalled the Springbok juggernaut four years ago – should find parity in the scrum. Even ring-rusty, Jones can be confident of dismantling Cian Healy, whose work in the tight, although improving, is not quite polished. With around one in four resulting in penalties these days, Romain Poite’s interpretation of their tussle is key.

Behind them, Howley has opted for raw athleticism. Debutant Andrew Coombs is a converted back-rower, while Sam Warburton should be confident of overrunning far burlier Sean O’Brien. With Aaron Shingler and Toby Faletau also in tow, the home side’s back row is probably better balanced than that of their rivals. If the skipper does stall, Justin Tipuric should be swiftly unleashed from the bench to wreak havoc at ruck-time. Having fought back to fitness after a nagging knee problem, Ian Evans’ presence is terribly  important. As the only man to play every minute of the Grand Slam last season, the 27 year-old is capable of correcting a lineout that was a total mess against Australia.

In terms of capability, Wales should be content with the look of their backline. When the likes of Mike Phillips, Jamie Roberts and George North click into gear with go-forward ball, they are irresistible. Leigh Halfpenny will kick his goals and last year in Dublin Jonathan Davies grabbed a brace of tries. Most encouraging though, is the form of Dan Biggar, the man entrusted with harmonizing the considerable talents around him. For the Ospreys, he has taken the right options with calm regularity without becoming overly predictable. If that transfers to national colours, Wales will not be far away.

Reasons to back Ireland

Finally back to the international fold for the first time since last summer, Brian O’Driscoll rarely fails to inspire. As he showcased fleetingly during Leinster’s ultimately futile Heineken Cup run, his deft handling remains tough to defend against. Trademark tenacity won’t be lacking, either. In a typically forthright interview this month, O’Driscoll hinted at quiet confidence. Not on a personal level – that isn’t his style. Instead, by pointing out that Ireland often perform in a Lions year – the 2009 Grand Slam as evidence – he suggested that others will be on fire. And there is a lot of fuel to fan the flames.

Named as captain, Jamie Heaslip has incentive to rediscover his Herculean best and his carries can really hurt Wales at close quarters; likewise his great friend Healy, who has been in utterly devastating fettle around the fringes at provincial level. Rory Best’s consistency would make every set-piece more solid, while Mike McCarthy and Donnacha Ryan comprise an intimidating, abrasive boiler-room. Nobody will shirk the dog-fight up front.

A hugely impressive  aspect of the 46-24 win over Argentina in November was how nicely the partnership between Conor Murray and Jonny Sexton functioned. Slick and assured, the duo’s rapid service allowed those outside them to pick scything lines. Flying Ulsterman Craig Gilroy was the main beneficiary that day, and retains his place at the expense of Andrew Trimble. Despite his tender years and relative lack of bulk, he will be a headache that North must shackle.

Prediction

So difficult. Writing off Wales is never advisable, even in spite of seven consecutive defeats. Then again, Ireland possess a significant amount of class themselves. This one will be decided at the very wire, though. And I feel that psychological scars inflicted over the past nine months might re-open. Ireland by three.

By Charlie Morgan

Follow Charlie on Twitter: @CharlieFelix

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17 comments on “RBS Six Nations 2013: Wales vs Ireland Prediction

  1. I can’t see after looking at the Welsh team selection where the injury crisis is. The back line selected is probably the strongest they could field (maybe apart from Biggar). And in the forwards maybe four regulars. Hardly an epic injury crisis!

    • The second row – Ian Evans isn’t match fit. No Wyn Jones. No Charteris. No Ryan Jones as cover. Also if fit Hibbard would be the starting hooker. Given our lack of a decent lineout and the importance of the scrum the injury hits in the 2nd row and hooker are a bit nasty – starting a debutant there with more debutant cover on the bench is a bit nerve wracking for a game we historically always lose (we nearly always lose to Ireland and home and we nearly always lose our first 6N match).

    • I meant in the forwards — sorry if that’s not clear.

      Dan Lydiate, Brad Davies, Richard Hibbard, Huw Bennett, Ryan Jones, Luke Charteris, Alun Wyn Jones all unavailable. Ian Evans, Adam Jones both only recently back in contention.

      That’s what I had in mind, Dazza.

      • Ok point taken. I still think with the players available, starting and on the bench, against an Irish team who themselves have a few injuries, it’s still a strong team. Maybe there are a few who should be in there on form (Walker in particular), but all in all, it should be a close game.

  2. “In front of a capacity crowd at the Millennium Stadium” – well, for that to happen someone is going to have to snap up the hundreds of unwanted tickets that are still flying around…

    I agree that this was one is too tough to predict. I’m going for a narrow Wales win but probably can’t justify why more than the optimism and hope of a fan.

  3. Conventional wisdom of the current losing streak and traditional poor performances against the Irish at home in 6N would be an Irish win …. however I’m expecting Wales to unleash hell, seek contact and shade a brutal but not particularly attractive game.

  4. It’s Irelands 6 nations the Lions Yeay O’ Driscol back and Heaslip as captain. Our forwards arew strong andf the girls will marking up the scores. Englnd/France ar the teams I fear Wales are tried and prone to injuries.

  5. This is Wales’s final, if they win Saturday things could happen, i fear a lack of confidence and a leader who will make the right decisions at crucial times. I don’t think this will be a easy 6N for Wales – either top of the pile or poss wooden spoon contenders. Wales desperately need a win have to go with my heart and Wales by 6

  6. I must admit as a neutral I am sooo looking forward to Wal/ Ire. Selection aside there is the Howley factor he hasn’t exactly been Mr Successful, but we’ve been here before and Wales love being written off, and despite many commentators picking Healy as a Lions prop in waiting, their scrum (as England showed last year) is vulnerable.

    As a England fan I’m not sure which outcome is better for us? Facing a beaten Ireland team at home out for revenge, or a winning Ireland team perhaps a tad over confident? Or looking forward do I dare dream of the final match in Cardiff being Championship/ GS decider, or a re-run of 2007/11 and a spoiling effort from a home team with nothing to lose?

    Tough one. Can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

  7. I’ll be looking for leaders from Wales tomorrow to arrest the slump.

    Warburton needs to front up as Captain he got the plaudits last season (deservedly) but if he has any pretensions left as Lion’s Captain he has to rally the troops. Others are capable of helping him Mike Phillips , Jamie Roberts and Gethin Jenkins in fact Gethin is in probably because of his possinle “shoutability” factor something Wales has been missing of late .

    Dan Biggar doesn’t lack confidence as well .

    Ireland have the ultimate on field leader and rugby warrior in O’Driscoll whoever they have named as captain you can trust him to be screaming the right words at the right times .If Wales match that and I would reverse the above prediction. Whatever they do please please “do not go gently into that good night ” like the last few matches.

  8. If Ireland and Wales both play to their best it will be a tight game, but I don’t see Wales showing up and George north is gonna have a nightmare marking Craig gilroy. Ireland to win by 7-12 points

    • Considering Gilroy is giving away 4 inches and about 3 stones to North, I reckon that could well be the other way round…

  9. Ireland and wales is always one of the best matches of the six nations. If you look its always close to, however the welsh team are really looking for a win and will do anything to get one. As a welsh supporter the Irish are my favourites for the tournament, but if wales win this match things could change.
    i am gonna say by 10 either way

  10. As last year, Wlaes bacline looks huge and powerful, add to thatntheir strengthnatnseven and I can see them moving the ball 2 passes from the contact area and letting north, roberts, cuthburt hitting it up the middle. The irish backrow is not the quickest in the world and o’brian (great player) fitmess is in doubt.

    Bod will help the middfield rucking as he is one of the best breakdown bacls in the world, but darcy’s tackling can be a bit weak at times.

    Look to irland using more runners close to contact area, they have a lot of powerful runners. Sexton will decide when to go wide and this is where ireland’s greatest strength of the championsh lies, they have the best flyhalf, the ,ost influential position on the field. If sexton has a good tournement, the sky is the limit for the irish, with his club career settled, this could be sexton’s year.

    I’m English but I’m going for ireland to win the 6N it all dependa on the result though.

    Ireland by 6