One game in and one win. Not a bad week in reflection for the Wales boys, and we’re now focused entirely on the Ireland game and the first of our two away days this tournament.
With our other three games in the championship being held at the Millennium – our home from home – we’ve done alright with the draw this year. It means so much for the team to be roared on by the Welsh crowd, and that’ll go some way in our advantage for our long-term objectives this campaign.
It’s now a matter of building upon our first win, but until we’ve outscored our opponents and that final whistle blows, nothing’s guaranteed and we mustn’t build too much steam about what could be until we know what we’re walking away with at Aviva Stadium.
As a team we’re ready for any battle and as expected, Italy last week was a tough one for the boys. Sergio Parisse and the Italian team certainly brought some of their best rugby to Cardiff. The boys shone on the day, racked up a few tries, and secured that all-important win. We now find ourselves kitting up in the iconic red kit once again ahead of today’s game on Irish soil, and we couldn’t have started better in the overall standings.
Ireland have been a tough opponent in the last couple of years. Joe Schmidt has at his disposal some really tricky players – some of which I had the luxury of playing with whilst on Lions duty last year – and this weekend will definitely be another tough encounter.
It’s not just me that’ll be up against former teammates. There’s a fair few of us Wales boys that were part of that Lions side including the likes of [Sam] Warbs, Alex Cuthbert, George North, Leigh Halfpenny and boss Warren Gatland. Whilst it’s safe to say it’ll be good to grace the same turf as the Lions lads, we’re not scared to give it our all – ourselves and the Irish boys – until that final whistle. That’s what rugby is about.
One of those we’ve got to try to disrupt is Jamie Heaslip. One of their driving forces, Jamie’s a key player in the Ireland set-up, and we’ll need to make sure that he doesn’t enforce too much control in the game if we’re to come out of this unscathed. We play similar roles for our countries, so I’ll hopefully be able to read his game and read situations before they become a problem for the team.
That’s vital, because we can’t realistically even afford one slip up this tournament, and if we’re to get that record-breaking hat-trick of wins, we’ll be targeting five wins across the board. It’s too early to tell who’ll be the main competitor when the time comes – it could be Ireland – and whilst England slipped up last week that only opened the door for France to be one of those able to lay their claim the earliest. Who knows what the situation will be like next week. As things stand, every team’s got a claim to this championship and we’re still in a grapple over whose hands are on that trophy when the work’s done.
We need to be in control of our destiny, and the second there’s a possibility that this could be determined through other teams’ results is the second we’ll be left in an uncomfortable position. We don’t want to let that happen, and will continue where we last left off – with a win.
Column exclusively brought to you by Under Armour athlete and WRU back row forward, Taulupe Faletau.