Fan preview: Wales v Ireland

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Updated: March 10, 2011

All Irish rugby fans know how important discipline will be this Saturday in the Ireland and Wales game and much like the player need to keep their discipline, we as fans, must also keep our discipline and not attack the players on Twitter afterwards whatever happens in the big match at the Millennium Stadium

Seriously though, Brian O’Driscoll may have been annoyed by his online critics after the narrow victory over Scotland, but he still knows there is only once place to look for answers within the squad itself.

When you think about it, that’s a good thing. Given how “poorly” we’ve played so far in this Six Nations Championship, the fact that the solution is in our own hands has to be a positive thing.

So, what does Ireland need to come out on top in Cardiff? Well the way I see it, we have everything we need at our disposal we just have to apply them for the full 80 minutes not just in patches.

We know we can scores tries from attacking positions, we’ve run in seven already. We know we can defend we’ve only had our line crossed twice. And even on the thorny issue of discipline, we know we have the ability to avoid penalties, as we showed in the closing minutes in both Rome and Edinburgh.

If only we could take those snippets of high-intensity all-round rugby and combine them in the one match! Do that, and there won’t be many who can stay with us.

Declan Kidney has kept faith with the same 22 to play Wales. It’s not quite the selection I would have made, but then again I haven’t won two Heineken Cups and a Grand Slam!

Still, whatever about the O’Gara/Sexton debate, I can’t understand why he won’t go for a provincial half-back pairing, especially when you consider how successful England have been with the Youngs/Flood combo from the Leicester Tigers so far.

As for what I call the “knock-on gremlins” we’ve been suffering, if the guilty players were rookies I’d say perhaps they weren’t up for the international stage, but you have to believe the likes of Gordon D’Arcy are able to get them out of their system.

In the pack, there is much work to be done. Jonathan Kaplan will be the referee, and given the style of play we’re trying to achieve, his southern hemisphere slant could work in our favour, but Paul O’Connell has to keep
his forwards focused so they can sort out early what he’s going to allow at the breakdown.

On the Welsh side, they have once again tinkered with their backline, but in my book they have selected their best so far in this tournament. Leigh Halfpenny is a star in the making on the wing but has had cruel luck with
injuries around Six Nations time so will be keen to impress.

Then there’s James Hook. He is leaving the Ospreys for France this summer because he wants to play at 10, so I guess it makes sense for Warren Gatland to select him there. Also Stephen Jones has fallen short with more than just his place kicking the last few times these sides have met. You can be sure that Hook will attack O’Gara’s channel often, be it with a chip over the top or a straight charge ahead, so hopefully our defence will be up to it.

I was interested to see how the Italians approached their match against Wales when they recently met in Rome. Normally you’d expect them to keep it in the pack but from the word go they ran at the Welsh defence. That leads me to believe that if we can do similar, there’s hay to be made.

But with O’Gara at 10 no doubt we’ll be relying more on a territory game, and there’s few better in the world at it.

So all in all it should be a fascinating encounter in Cardiff. Whatever we may think about the selection and tactics, as true Irish fans we have to get behind the lads come kickoff time, and if all goes well as I feel it might (albeit by a whisker!), we must be sure and send them a congratulatory tweet or two afterwards.

JL Pagano is a massive Leinster & Ireland rugby fan and shares all his experiences on his blog at www.harpinonrugby.net

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