Now it gets exciting, 2 games left in the championship, an away trip to Cardiff and then the old enemy comes to Dublin.
As all people should, let’s take this 1 game at a time.
Ireland arrives in Cardiff with confidence. After a slow start and a loss against a decent Scotland team, Ireland have turned the screw from minute 41 in that match all the way through to the end of the French match. The thing I took from the last match against France was the ability to strangle the opposition. Not a huge amount of flashy rugby, but anytime a hole was spotted, Ireland went through it. It was the rugby equivalent of a Boa constrictor slowly killing a deer. I am not sure if I have my species right there, but you get my point. It was another facet to the game plan for Ireland which will serve well against Wales.
Wales on the other hand are having a rollercoaster championship. Starting with a fairly easy win against Italy, after being held for a long time. They then should have beaten England, that was their massive moment of the year so far. They were massive and stepped up hugely against a bully England team. The English where rattled for the first time in a year at that stage and it was all down to Wales being more up for the fight. It was great to see, but I think losing that match in the last minutes has affected the Welsh. They then moved to Edinburgh to take on a semi-resurgent Scottish side. Wales started well, started strong and looked to be rolling forward to a win. And then they collapsed quicker than me trying to run more than 3 miles. It looked as if they felt it was over and they could just coast through for the win. The plays they set up didn’t come off, they missed many tackles and Scotland remained Scotland. They deserved their win and put another nail into Wales.
So will Wales rebound? Will that Welsh pride make an appearance? They are looking around the changing room at players who haven’t performed; players who backed each other have not been doing that. The plays they want to use during a game aren’t coming off. Pride won’t win this game.
Look, let’s be honest. Ireland should strangle this team. If you compare the teams, the 2nd row and back row are as close to even as can be. The front row is all Ireland. The midfield would be leaning towards Ireland based on form, this is a game made for Ringrose to work off the bulldozing Henshaw. The back 3 would cancel each other out too, but Wales do not have a Zebo. Someone who can make a bit of magic. I know George North is playing, but he is off the pace and a few games away from being his best. And remember, he is coming off numerous concussions. It must be getting to him at this stage, he knows he is susceptible.
The Irish bench is slightly stronger too. Most of the players in the match day squad have seen game time. At 55 minutes there is a chance we can see Healy, O’Mahony and Henderson make appearances, which is the aggression Ireland will need to close out the game.
I think confidence is what wins this game. A big, aggressive and violent start from Ireland and the Welsh adrenaline will disappear, the crowd will turn on their team and the Irish anaconda (my ironic stripper name) will strangle the Welsh to a 7 point win. It will not be easy, but the green machine will roll home with a Welsh scalp and a parking space for the chariot.
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