Wales begin defence at home to Ireland

Updated: February 1, 2013

Wales begin the defence of their 6 Nations crown this weekend at the Millennium Stadium against Ireland in a showdown of the underachievers.

Wales began 2012 with much promise, brushing aside all before them on their way to the Triple Crown and Grand Slam. Warbuton, Priestland, Halfpenny and North all young talent that showed they have the equipment to handle the International game and potentially bring Wales back to the top of the sport. However the second half of the year was one they will want to forget, 7 consecutive losses including to Argentina and  Samoa has put them on the back foot coming into the Championship.

While Wales’s recent run of form has been disappointing, they have won their last three Tests against Ireland, including a 2011 World Cup quarter-final and last year coming out on top in Dublin 23-21.

Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees and Adam Jones are reunited in the front row which will provide a stern Test to the Irish pack. The form of captain Warburton will be key following a very inconsistent year, if he plays well, so do Wales.

The Irish will also want to forget their late season form from last year which granted was hampered by serious injuries. Rory Best, Sean O’Brien, Rob Kearney and Brian O’Driscoll are all back in following their absence from the Autumn series. O’Driscoll will win his 127th cap at the Millennium Stadium and extend his world record midfield partnership with Gordon D’Arcy to 49 Tests in what is expected to be his last 6 Nations, while Jamie Heaslip will call the shots for the Irish.

The difference between winning and losing could very possible be decided in midfield, with Davies and Roberts going head to head with D’Arcy and O’Driscoll, an intriguing battle which will be full of creativity and hard defence.

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Andrew Coombs, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Craig Mitchell, 18 Paul James, 19 Olly Kohn, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Liam Williams, 22 Scott Williams, 23 James Hook.

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Brian O’Driscoll, 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip (captain), 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Mike McCarthy, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 David Kilcoyne, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Donncha O’Callaghan, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ronan O’Gara, 23 Keith Earls.