2018 Six Nations: Ireland vs Wales

 Players attempt to score a try

The Irish will be looking to keep intact their 100% success rate in this year’s competition when the Dragons of Wales come knocking at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday the 24th of February. 

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Ireland v Wales
24 February 16h15
Aviva Stadium, Dublin

To Win (80 Mins)
Ireland 27/100
Draw 25/1
Wales 28/10

Handicap
Ireland (-9.5) 9/10
W
ales (+9.5) 9/10

The match holds more than a little significance for Warren Gatland, with the 54-year-old Kiwi reaching a century of games as coach of the Welsh. Indeed, this intriguing subplot will add even more zest to what always proves to be one of the tournament’s most absorbing encounters.

Ireland

So far, Ireland’s campaign has all gone according to plan. Wins over France (courtesy of that Johnny Sexton drop-goal) and Italy have maintained their standing as tournament co-favourites and have set them up fantastically well for this week’s upcoming showdown with Wales. Last year’s reverse in Cardiff ended in a 22-9 home win, and Joe Schmidt’s side will be aching to avenge a game that, 12-months ago, they really should have taken.

If the Irish can curb Wales’ early enthusiasm, they may be able to ring the life out of them via the tactical genius of their illustrious halfback pair. Wales are again without a number of first-choice options and their greenness in the back division will be something that Schmidt will look to expose this weekend; I’m expecting plenty of trickery from Sexton et al.

The loss of Robbie Henshaw is a huge blow, but Ireland will have the likes of Chris Farrell and the formidable Garry Ringrose to call upon. Thankfully for the men in green however, the injury Tadhg Furlong sustained against Italy wasn’t as severe as first thought, and the big man is expected to get the nod again this week.

Wales

You have to hand it to the Welsh; they certainly haven’t let their injury woes get them down. They deserve as many plaudits for their phenomenal win over Scotland in Round One as they do for their narrow loss to the English two weeks ago – especially considering the list of footballers they’ve been without. This group really does seem to have stuck together without complaint but this weekend’s performance may just prove to be their most crucial.

Wales will be uber-motivated to give Gatland a win in his 100th game in charge, which will have a big bearing on their level of performance on Saturday. Theirs is a team that thrives on passion and their degree of intensity will doubtless increase tenfold. The key for a Welsh win however, will lie in just how long they are able to maintain that intensity. Ireland will look to play on the inexperienced Wales backline, and indeed first-time tackling may prove the difference for the youthful Dragons this week.

Verdict: Ireland (-9.5) 9/10 
Wales will come out of the blocks firing, but I doubt whether they will be able to maintain their intensity over the course of the eighty. Ireland should be too smart for them this weekend.

Written by Shaun Goosen for @Hollywoodbets.net

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