Ireland In Search Of Momentum Against Wales Ahead Of World Cup

Joe Schmidt's men are looking to bounce back following their crushing defeat to England last weekend
13:01, 31 Aug 2019

After being reduced to so much rubble by England at a sun-baked Twickenham last weekend, the onus is on Ireland to fashion the right response when they face Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

It is their penultimate World Cup warm-up match ahead of a return fixture against the Welsh at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin next weekend.

Ireland’s defence of their Guinness Six Nations crown ultimately fell some way short at the start of 2019 - Joe Schmidt's men finished third – but they will head to Japan confident of a best-ever campaign.

Ireland have broken new ground since the last World Cup four years ago.

They have beaten New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, and won a Grand Slam in 2018.

This summer’s training camps in Galway and then Limerick, were their last under Schmidt before assistant coach Andy Farrell takes the top job after the World Cup.

The Kiwi will head home after Japan but will be desperate to sign off on a high and lead Ireland past the quarter-final stage for the first time in their history.

Can they do it? Certainly they will require a far tighter defence than the one which shipped eight tries against rampant England last weekend.

Only New Zealand have inflicted a heavier defeat on Ireland, who are seeking to bring some momentum into their World Cup campaign following their lacklustre Six Nations.

"There's a litany of things that were most disappointing - we fell off 34 tackles," said Schmidt of the 57-15 pasting. 

Ireland are still hopeful that Joey Carbery, who suffered an ankle injury in their opening warm-up game against Italy, will be fully fit for their Pool A opener on September 22.

Ireland are pitted with Scotland, Samoa, Russia and hosts Japan, but first they will seek to restore confidence and morale during the next eight days against Wales.

Ulster full-back Will Addison, the former Sale Sharks man, will make his first appearance since January on Saturday as Schmidt makes 11 changes from the side that was stuffed at Twickenham.

Tadhg Beirne will play in the back row as Niall Scannell takes over at hooker while half-backs Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion get their first starts of the warm-up matches.

Chris Farrell returns to partner Bundee Aki in midfield while Iain Henderson is joined in the second row by James Ryan, with Devin Toner again on the bench.

Jack Conan is given the chance to stake a claim for a starting berth at the back of the scrum as Munster props Dave Kilcoyne and John Ryan look to cement their places in the final 31-man squad.

For the third game in a row Johnny Sexton, Keith Earls and Robbie Henshaw are omitted from the squad with Schmidt confirming earlier this week that the trio, who sustained minor injuries in training camp, are likely to return to action in Ireland's final warm-up game against Wales next weekend.

Saturday provides Addison with an opportunity to prove his match sharpness with the Ireland head coach poised to select his squad before the final warm-up game.

Carty, who enjoyed an impressive season at Connacht, is given his chance at 10 while there is no recognised replacement fly-half among the replacements.

Versatile prop Andrew Porter reckons Ireland are ready to bounce back, saying:

Obviously there is no good time for what happened last weekend to happen but sure, it’s better to happen now than in a few weeks in Japan. 

"It will be great this weekend to get that momentum going and we’ll obviously try to push on from last week anyway and put out our best performance.

“I think it’s really important to do that in terms of getting momentum going into the World Cup."

Sporting Calendar