PREVIEW: Ireland v Wales
WORLD CUP WARM-UP: Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and captain Rory Best will experience their last taste of a home rugby Test match on Saturday against Wales and Andy Farrell says he hopes the players produce a performance worthy of the occasion.
Schmidt, who has been in charge since 2013, and Best have overseen a purple patch for the national side since the disappointment of the 2015 World Cup when an injury-hit side were run ragged by Argentina in the quarterfinals.
Two historic wins over world champions New Zealand – their first-ever in Chicago in 2016 and then a home win last November – and the 2018 Six Nations Grand Slam, only the third in their history speaks volumes for Schmidt’s coaching ability and Best’s captaincy.
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) September 5, 2019
Farrell, who will step up from his defence coach role to succeed Schmidt after the World Cup, conceded this year has seen those high standards fall with the nadir the 15-57 thrashing inflicted by England a fortnight ago.
However, he sees Saturday’s clash with a pretty much full-strength Wales team at Lansdowne Road as ideal to give the Irish a pep in their step before they fly to Japan for the World Cup and also provide a fitting farewell to Dublin for Schmidt and Best.
“I would like to see that fighting spirit really,” said Farrell.
“We are at home with our fans right behind us.
“Rory [who has been captain since the 2015 World Cup] will understate it being his last game, but it does mean something to us that it is Joe’s last game and Rory’s last game.
“How do we use that emotionally?
“We grab hold of it, we use it to focus a bit better and hopefully we will get that accurate performance we are looking for.”
‘Dealing with moments’
Farrell, whose son Owen the England captain played a pivotal role in the destruction of Ireland at Twickenham, said anyone who took Saturday’s game lightly because it is the final match before hostilities begin in Japan later this month would be kidding themselves.
“This is a proper Test match,” said the 44-year-old Englishman.
“Why? Because Wales are coming full bore and I’m sure that they’ll want to get on the plane with a lot of confidence and we’re exactly the same.”
Farrell, who was a Rugby League great but then switched codes and played at the 2007 World Cup, said the criticism from outside following the England humiliation was as nothing compared to what it was like inside the camp.
“We think it’s unbelievably positive to be honest with each other, and I’ve never seen a more honest environment,” said Farrell.
“It’s open and people are able to say what they think.”
Farrell is no stranger to the pitfalls of failure as was the case being a member of the England coaching team at the 2015 World Cup which saw them fail to get out
of their pool – doubly wounding as they were the hosts.
Farrell – who has been credited with much of Ireland’s success since coming on board in 2016 – says he has learned lessons from that which he has found useful in preparing the Irish for Japan.
“Well, it’s dealing with moment and it’s a work-on that we’ve been trying to address in the first three matches [the warm-up Tests against Italy, England and Wales last Saturday].
“It’s dealing with moments.
“The big crunch match from the last World Cup was the Welsh game and it was a do or die game and we didn’t deal with big moments at the right time.
“We [the Ireland coaching team] feel that we’ve got the right people in place to be able to deal with that.”
Players to watch:
For Ireland: All eyes will be on Jonathan Sexton, who will be playing his first competitive match since the end of May. He is an integral part of Ireland’s plans and Joe Schmidt will be wanting a solid performance from his star man. There has been a lot of talk about Jean Kleyn’s selection ahead of Devin Toner for Ireland’s final World Cup squad and the SA-born player will want to prove his doubters wrong.
For Wales: Rhys Patchell will be looking to build on his second-half performance in his team’s 17-22 defeat to Ireland in Cardiff last weekend. Josh Adams and George North are both good finishers out wide, while Leigh Halfpenny will be looking to put in a big performance as an extra playmaker from the back.
Head to head: The midfield battle is a mouth-watering one with Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki taking on Jonathan Davies and Hadleigh Parkes. The battle between the two back-rows should also be interesting with Christiaan Stander and Justin Tipuric to play key roles at the breakdowns.
2019: Ireland won 22-17, Cardiff
2019: Wales won 25-7, Cardiff
2018: Ireland won 37-27, Dublin
2017: Wales won 22-9, Cardiff
2016: 16-16 draw, Dublin
2015: Wales won 16-10, Dublin
2015: Ireland won 35-21, Cardiff
2015: Wales won 23-16, Cardiff
2014: Ireland won 26-3, Dublin
2013: Ireland won 30-22, Cardiff
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Christiaan Stander, 5 Jean Kleyn, 4 James Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Garry Ringrose.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owen, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Liam Williams.
Date: Saturday, September 7
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 14.00 (13.00 GMT)
Expected weather: There will be a high of 17°C and a low of 9°C with a slight breeze
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)