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Irish captain Brian O'Driscoll at the Captains Run yesterday.
Inpho/Billy Stickland
Ireland Hold Far Too Many Aces.
2 February 2007, 11:12 am
By Chris Byrne
Never mind the positive talk from the Welsh camp nor the understandably cautious utterings from Eddie O'Sullivan & Co, if Ireland produce the sort of performance they are capable of, anything like what we saw in the autumn international, then they will win and win well this afternoon in Cardiff
And yes of course it is tempting fate to say it, but if the game today ends in anything other than an Irish victory, it will be a surprise on the seismic scale.

What we are looking at here is a settled Irish side, well used to playing alongside each other, taking on a Welsh side shorn of four or five regulars, with rookies in the centre, wing and second row.

According to both coaches, the first 20 minutes is going to be a key period and who would doubt them. But is there anyone out there who seriously believes that this game will be decided in the first twenty ?
The likelihood is that the Welsh will come out with all guns blazing but how many points would they need to accumulate in the opening quarter to make this game safe. They could ask the French for guidance on that one, but what we do know now about Brian O'Driscoll's side is that they play for the full eighty and are probably more potent in the final quarter than the opening one.

With no Shane Williams, Mark Jones, Tom Shanklin, Gareth Thomas and out-of-form Gavin Henson, the theory is that Wales will target the Irish scrum and even the line-out to gain the upper hand. There is a perception doing the rounds that following on from the Heineken Cup defeats of Munster and Leinster, that the way to defeat Ireland is by dismantling their pack. Dream on. At the very least Ireland can expect to gain parity and that will do.

Llanelli have been the form Welsh side of the Heineken Cup yet they only manage to get three players into this starting side. In the centre, Jamie Robinson is paired with James Hook who, after five caps is being hailed the new Barry John and they come up against the best centre in the world and the best centre partnership in the northern hemisphere (at least).
21-year-old Alun Wyn Jones and 22-year-old Chris Czekaj would not be in the starting XV were it not for injury and in Gareth Thomas' case, suspension to other players.

Then you have to wonder when Welsh coach Gareth Jenkins says that "we can beat any team if we play well" !
Gareth, playing well might get you something against Italy or Scotland on their current form, but won't even begin to cut it today. Your side is going to have to play out of their skins today and even that won't guarantee them victory. But what it might do is ensure the same fate doesn't befall them that did Italy and Scotland yesterday.



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