Author: Dafydd Jones
Ireland welcome Wales to the Aviva Stadium in the opening game of the 2022 Six Nations.
The hosts head into the contest in fine form, having impressed massively in the Autumn fixtures.
Back in November, the Irish began with an emphatic 60-5 victory over Japan, who remarkably beat them in the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Having overcame the challenge of Japan, the opposition was much tougher the following week, facing New Zealand.
Despite the notorious difficulty of facing the All Blacks, Ireland put in an unbelievable performance to secure a 29-20 victory in Dublin.
It was a similar story in their final game of the autumn, impressing once more against a strong Argentina side that were brushed aside by a scoreline of 53-7.
Ireland’s fine form sees them now place fourth in the world rankings and head into their first game of 2022 on Saturday full of confidence.
Wales head to Dublin facing an almighty challenge, especially with Wayne Pivac’s side’s injury list.
Skipper and second-row Alun Wyn Jones, full-back Leigh Halfpenny, hooker Ken Owens, George North and back-row trio Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi and Taulupe Faletau are all ruled out of contention.
With all the players unavailable for Wales, the visitors miss out on 657 Test caps, a great deal of experience for a Six Nations opener.
In the Autumn, Wales were outclassed by New Zealand in the opener, falling to a 54-16 defeat in Cardiff, before falling just short against South Africa the following week in a fixture that Pivac will still be pondering how the hosts didn’t win.
An improved result against Fiji saw Wales regain momentum to claim a narrow 29-28 victory over Australia in their final fixture, with Rhys Priestland converting a penalty with the clock red to seal the win.
In the fixture between the two sides last year, Wales claimed a 21-16 victory in Cardiff, after Peter O’Mahony was shown a red card, with Pivac’s side going on to win the Six Nations, despite missing out on the Grand Slam in the final game against France.
With Ireland in red-hot form, this weekend’s Six Nations opener will be a big challenge for a depleted Wales.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen; Johnny Sexton (captain), Jamison Gibson Park; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Ryan Baird, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, James Hume.
Wales: Liam Williams; Johnny McNicholl, Josh Adams, Nick Tompkins, Louis Rees-Zammit; Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Adam Beard, Ellis Jenkins, Taine Basham, Aaron Wainwright.
Replacements: Dewi Lake, Gareth Thomas, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, Ross Moriarty, Gareth Davies, Callum Sheedy, Owen Watkin