Breakdown key in Dublin showdown

Thu, 06 Feb 2014 08:12
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Wales coach Warren Gatland says the breakdown will play a huge role in deciding his team's Nations clash with Ireland this weekend.

Wales coach Warren Gatland says the breakdown will play a huge role in deciding his team's Nations clash with Ireland this weekend.

The two sides meet in Dublin on Saturday with another tight encounter expected. Gatland has made three changes to his side from the one which started the win over Italy. Gethin Jenkins and Andrew Coombs come into the pack for Paul James and Luke Charteris respectively while Sam Warburton is the other new face.

Warburton starts at openside flank in a loose trio alongside Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau, and Gatland expects the trio to get through plenty of work on Saturday afternoon.

"It's going to be a tough, physical game and we're looking for that physicality at the breakdown," said the Wales head coach.

"Sean O'Brien is a big loss to Ireland. We have two excellent sevens - Justin Tipuric is on the bench and we know we can move Sam to six if we want. In terms of stealing and poaching ball and winning penalties, Sam is definitely one of the best in the world at doing that. We're looking forward to competing hard at the breakdown.

"Ireland looked in control against Scotland and it was a good performance. By all accounts, they have spent the last two weeks preparing for this game but we're aware of that and it's a massive game for both teams on Saturday."

Charteris' hamstring problem means Coombs comes in to partner Alun Wyn Jones at lock but centre Jonathan Davies is not involved as he continues his recovery from pectoral surgery.

"Gethin has trained well as has Sam so they come back into the side," said Gatland, when asked about his selection.

"They bring some experience and we know it's going to be pretty physical up front. It's a shame for Luke and Jonathan is still not quite right so he'll train with us and maybe have another game next week with the Scarlets. Other than that, we're in a pretty healthy state.

"Ireland have a lot of players Leinster have used and we've had a good look at the way they've played. They're trying to play an attacking brand of rugby and we've been working hard this week to try and prevent that."

Warburton returns to the starting line-up this weekend after featuring as a second half replacement in the win over Italy.

"I was really pleased to get back on the pitch, get a few bumps going and feel the speed and intensity of Test match rugby," he said.

"I blew away the cobwebs and I'm looking forward to Saturday now. I've been out to Ireland twice. I've always found them a hard side to play against and in 2012 they were tough but obviously we got a good result.

"Ireland is one of the most enjoyable games to play in, just because of the way they play. It's open, it's physical at the breakdown and ticks all the boxes for a Test match.

"We got to know a lot of their guys in the summer and it will be good to go up against them in a high pressure environment but on opposing teams."

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Team P W D L Pts
England 5 5 0 132 10
Wales 5 3 1 1 7
Ireland 5 2 1 2 5
Scotland 5 2 0 3 4
France 5 2 0 3 4
Italy 5 0 0 5 0