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Six Nations : Ireland Vs Wales Preview

Mission Impossible? Gats Has Done It Three Times Before

It looks like Mission Impossible, but if anyone knows how to trample on a shamrock then it’s Warren Gatland.

Admittedly, Ireland’s rugby team has grown a bit since Gatland last put his heavy boots on across the Irish Sea.

It’s less of shamrock these days, and more like a giant Venus Flytrap that slams shut and gobbles up all opposition.

France and Italy have already been eaten alive in this Six Nations tournament. But there are still grounds for optimism that Wales might be worth backing at boosted odds of 16/1 with DragonBet.

Gatland has won three times with Wales in Dublin – in 2008, 2012 and 2015 and earned a draw there in 2016.

That’s a pretty impressive record given that Ireland top the Six Nations table for most victories over the last 26 years since the tournament was expanded.

Gatland is up for the fight, though, and says: “We’ve spoken all week about having no fear going there. 

“Daf Jenkins spoke about going into that first game with a little bit too much respect for Scotland. We saw an improvement up at Twickenham. 

“There’s learnings from that on how you manage close games. England’s kicking game was excellent. We probably don’t have the experience to manage those situations. 

“Ireland are one of the best teams in the world. But you’ve got to embrace that challenge and be excited for it. That’s part of our growth.

“Yes, they’re world class and it’s a big challenge for us. But we’re excited for it.

“Being underdogs isn’t motivation for us. The motivation for us is the pressure we put on ourselves to get better.”

Since the turn of the century, Ireland have delivered three Grand Slams, seven Triple Crowns and five Championship titles in what is the greatest period in the history of Irish rugby.

Now, they are chasing something that has only happened five times in the past – back-to-back Grand Slams.

The crushing 36-0 win over Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Round 2 made it 10 Championship wins in a row.

Ireland have won 38 of their last 40 Test matches on home soil (L2), with only England (2019) and France (2021) winning in Dublin in that spell.

The current run of 17 consecutive home wins is the best in their Test history.

Wales have lost nine of their last 10 Six Nations matches, including their last three. They have also lost 22 of their 39 matches since last beating Andy Farrell’s side in 2021, while Ireland have lost just three out of 34 since.

It looks like a mis-match, except there are some reasons to keep the faith.

Five of those recent defeats have come by four points or fewer, including both matches so far this campaign (1 point v Scotland, 2 points v England).

And Wales were clear underdogs going into their two most recent wins over the Irish – both at home – in 2019 and 2021.

Ciaran Frawley has been named to start for Ireland at full-back in place of the injured Hugo Keenan, but other than that coach Andy Farrell has reverted to the rest of side which won in France on the opening night.

Gatland has made one change – swapping Ioan Lloyd at outside-half for the returning Sam Costelow.

If Wales can upset the odds, it will be arguably their biggest shock result since they beat England 26-19 at Twickenham, less than a year after losing 62-5 to the same opponents.

That was Gatland’s first match in charge of Wales.

The Kiwi had the Midas touch, back then. The question is, can he find it again on Saturday afternoon?

Wales: Cameron Winnett; Josh Adams, George North, Nick Tompkins, Rio Dyer; Sam Costelow, Tomos Williams; Gareth Thomas, Elliot Dee, Keiron Assiratti, Dafydd Jenkins (capt), Adam Beard, Alex Mann, Tommy Reffell, Aaron Wainwright.

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Corey Domachowski, Dillon Lewis, Will Rowlands, Mackenzie Martin, Kieran Hardy, Ioan Lloyd, Mason Grady.

Ireland: Ciaran Frawley; Calvin Nash, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, James Lowe, Jack Crowley, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong, Joe McCarthy, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Oli Jager, James Ryan, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Stuart McCloskey.

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