Ireland and Wales are feeling the heat ahead of their crucial Six Nations opener. Both sides want to take advantage of England’s shock loss and face a title challenge … but a defeat for both sides could mean disaster
- Ireland launches its Six Nations 2021 campaign against Wales on Sunday
- Both camps are feeling the pressure of a decisive clash in the principality
- England’s shock defeat could give both sides an opportunity to face a title challenge
- Losing will put further pressure on both teams who are already feeling the heat
Ireland kicks off their 2021 Six Nations campaign against Wales in Cardiff on Sunday afternoon, knowing that both camps are feeling the pressure ahead of a crucial clash at the Principality Stadium.
Irish head coach Andy Farrell and his Welsh counterpart Wayne Pivac are overseeing their second in charge tournaments due to inconsistent 2020 campaigns while Johnny Sexton and Alun Wyn Jones (both 35) are captains with no time on their side.
Scotland’s shock win against England at Twickenham on Saturday opened the Six Nations chase wide open for the opening weekend and the winning side on Sunday will have serious title challenges to face in the months ahead. Losing will put pressure on both coaching teams who are feeling the heat.
Irish head coach Andy Farrell (left) and his Welsh counterpart Wayne Pivac (right) are both feeling the heat before their decisive start in Six Nations on Sunday in the Principality
Pivac, who lost his seven of his first ten responsible games, has chosen the most skilled Welsh team in history, while Farrell has relied on veteran activists such as Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Cian Healy and Peter O’Mahony.
Ireland are aiming for their first six-nation win on Welsh soil since 2013 but Simon Easterby has denied the hosts are there for them after their poor performance last year.
“You will definitely want to improve on our recent performances and results,” said the Irish defense coach.
“It’s a new tournament, an opportunity to start over. You had a year together, a lot of things will be embedded, you will feel like you are in a much stronger place than the last time we played it.
England’s shock defeat against Scotland could give both sides an opportunity to face a title challenge
“We expect a team that will play against us with confidence.” They are at home, but not with 70,000 Welsh supporting them.
“Just as they liked to play at Scarlets when they won things, they were aggressive, threatened all over the park and I assume tomorrow won’t be any different.”
Slow starts have ruined Ireland’s last three visits to Cardiff, especially the last visit to the venue in 2019 when the guests lost 16-0 at halftime before Wales headed for the win and the Grand Slam.
“We have done this several times,” Easterby admitted.
“The last time they were ahead of us was in 2019 when they won the Grand Slam. Obviously the conditions were a little different. It rained a lot and it was hard to watch the game but we can’t afford to give a team like Wales – with home advantage – the 10, 12, 15 point advantage we have made in the past.
“It’s about making sure we win these little battles early on. The game won’t win in the first 20, but it can be tough to win if you don’t keep track and give the teams the start that we have here. “
Ireland prevailed against Wales in the last meeting of the two teams in the Autumn Nations Cup
Wales have named the dependable backrow trio of Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau, while George North moves to the middle to create a tough midfield with Johnny Williams.
And Easterby is expecting a physical attack from the hosts this afternoon.
“We can expect them to come after us with the ball in hand.”
“With the size they are in this midfield, they will be disruptive in defense.”
“It raises a lot of questions and I’m sure they will cause us problems.”