Williams and Halfpenny return to face Ireland

Ebony Scott
February 22, 2018

During a wide-ranging interview, Williams discussed Wales" chances against Ireland at the Aviva on Saturday, and the 2008 World Rugby Player of the Year was under no illusions as to the strength of Joe Schmidt's side, highlighting the "string-pulling' capabilities of Sexton and Murray.

Warren Gatland indicated yesterday that his plan for Wales to overcome Ireland in this Saturday's crunch NatWest Six Nations encounter will revolve around a physical attack on Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray.

What has been an injury-plagued side is boosted by the return of Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams and Dan Biggar.

The amount of insider information and crossover in coaching methods involving any Ireland-Wales game has only intensified recently given the make-up on and of the pitch in the last two Lions tours. "We've had some pretty good success... We have got to be physical against them up front and stop the running power of someone like CJ Stander, who's a big go-forward player". "I think sometimes that the style of rugby that Wales play suits us against Ireland, and we often seem to be the underdogs but come up trumps".

The Munster man takes heart from the fact that Ireland are still unbeaten despite seemingly playing below their potential. "We've got a job to do to try and shut them down".

Ireland have not beaten Wales in the Six Nations since 2014 and some closely fought battles have helped to forge an intense rivalry in recent times.

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Gatland has axed out-half Rhys Patchell in favour of the experience of Biggar, who has made an immediate return to the Test stage just four weeks after suffering a shoulder problem.

Halfpenny moves straight back in at full-back after being a late withdrawal in Round 2 and the 29-year-old forms a back three unit with a fit-again Williams and Steff Evans.

While Gatland happily hailed the Ireland and Lions half-back pairing, he was much more measured when asked if Ireland ought to be rated as the best team in the Championship.

"Ireland ground out a win in France". You put that disappointment behind you, you get back there and you fight harder. Wales on the other hand suffered defeat to England last time out, in a game they should have really won, so one would think it's the wrong time for Ireland to have that tag against a wounded animal. Two or three of Ireland's tries against Italy were from turnover situations and an interception.

"We're putting 40 minutes together here, 20 there, 60 maybe against Italy but we've got to get that consistency across the board to beat a team as good as Wales".

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