Come 2.45pm, all the talking can stop and all players and fans can focus on the game that will either see Wales win a third Grand Slam under Warren Gatland or Ireland will be in with a shout of holding on to the crown won last March in Twickenham. Of course in the event of a draw, neither side will win the title.
This game is evenly balanced after Ireland regained there mojo after defeat to England in Dublin on the opening weekend. Ireland don’t have a great record under Joe Schmidt in Cardiff and will want to tick that box off in Schmidt’s final 6 Nations game as Ireland Head Coach.
Gatland will want to do likewise as he brings down the curtain on 12 years as Wales supremo in the 6 Nations.
Of course he will have a World Cup to contest for in less than 6 months time in Japan. Having guided Wales to Semi Final in 2011, he will want to go a step further in Japan. The focus won’t be on Japan, it will be on Ireland who pose quite a big obstacle to Wales winning another Grand Slam under Gatland’s watch.
Unlike 2005, I doubt Ireland will buckle under the pressure of a Grand Slam decider for Wales. Unlike 12 months ago all the expectancy will be on Wales in front of an expectant home crowd. Ireland will feel this is a free shot given how unlikely it may be that they will win the Championship this year. Yes it can still be done but results will need to go their way for it to happen. Joe Schmidt would love nothing more than to spoil the Welsh party on his final 6 Nations trip to Cardiff as Ireland boss.
The side he has selected may be in a position to do that and although Iain Henderson will not be involved Tadgh Beirne has been selected alongside Ireland’s player of the Championship in my mind James Ryan who will call the line out this week. What Devin Toner’s injury has done is it a put certain players in a place where they need to perform knowing he will not be involved to help them out of a sticky situation if it arises.
Jack Carty has been rewarded with a place on the bench after his impressive half an hour last Sunday. Even if Joey Carbery had been in the shake up for selection I think Jack Carty would still be worthy of a spot in the 23.
Again we have seen three men vying to take Jonathan Sexton’s spot namely Carbery, Ross Byrne and Jack Carty. It is great to see this situation crop up as for many years it was O’Gara and he alone. Again the work on the depth chart has come up trumps for Schmidt.
Have no doubt that Jack Carty will do an adequate job if called on early this weekend. He will have experience will inside him with Conor Murray and Kieran Marmion who is also on the bench this week. This weekend is a last chance to regain the crown won in such empathic fashion last year and 12 months on, the time is upon the 23 men selected to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and deny Wales the party they seem hell bent on having and although the likelihood with an Irish win would mean Eddie Jones’s England would sneak in to nick the title with a win against Scotland in Twickenham.
Plenty of rugby to be played before the 5pm kick off in the Calcutta Cup game and there will be thrills and spills in Cardiff before the action in Twickenham. To the Irish 20s, It will be full steam ahead to see can they claim a Grand Slam of their own in Colwyn Bay at 7.05pm on Friday evening. Noel Mc Namara’s men will have Harry Byrne and Craig Casey at half back and that slection alone could be key to see where this game will be won and lost….
The Irish women will hope to end a most disappointing campaign with a much needed win on Sunday at 1.30pm. The side will need to hit top gear or somewhere close to see off this Welsh side but Adam Griggs will want his charges to go out and finish this Championship on a positive note….