Ireland vs Wales Prediction and Preview

Ireland vs Wales Prediction and Preview

We look ahead to Saturday afternoon’s 2024 Guinness Men’s Six Nations match in Dublin with our Ireland vs Wales prediction and preview.

Ireland and Wales have enjoyed some titanic battles throughout the years, facing each other in pulsating opening fixtures, Grand Slam deciders and everything in between in the Guinness Six Nations Championship.

Over the last nine meetings between the two nations, the head-to-head is even, with each side winning four matches apiece (one draw). That said, Ireland have won their last two clashes in the Championship against Wales and will aim to win three on the bounce in this fixture for the first time since 2004.

It would be hard to bet against the Irish doing just that against Warren Gatland’s side. Ireland have won their last 11 matches in the Six Nations and are just one game away from equalling the record for consecutive victories in the Championship – including the Home and Five Nations – which is England’s 12 between 2015-17, while they’re enjoying their longest ever winning run in Dublin in their Test history (W17). Oh, and they’ve not lost a Six Nations game against the Welsh in the Irish capital since 2012.

However, Wales thrive when they’re been labelled down and out and this current young and inexperienced crop has already shown huge resilience in their opening two games so far – coming back from a 27-point deficit against Scotland to lose by just a single point, before leading England at Twickenham until the 72nd minute in Round 2. They are getting closer to an 80-minute performance and with some potential superstars beginning to emerge, Ireland may not have it all their own way this weekend.


This match could be a clash of styles. Using the Opta Analyst Six Nations Stats Hub we can see that Ireland have moved the ball wide (20+ metres laterally from the previous ruck) on 11% of their attacking phases – the highest rate of any team – getting the ball beyond first (38%) and second receiver (15%) more than any other team.

In contrast, Wales have kept the ball within 10 metres of the previous ruck most often (55%), preferring to keep the play tight and punch holes in the defence that way.

Whether playing expansively or keeping it tight is a strength, we’ll find out this weekend…

Ireland’s expansive play has helped them get over the gainline more regularly than any other nation this year. Andy Farrell’s side are the only one with a gainline success rate over 50% (56%). This has gone hand in hand with their rapid work at the breakdown; their attacking rucks taking just 3.3 seconds to complete on average, the best rate of any team.

Wales will look to attack that area though: they’ve slowed their opponents’ rucks down to a greater extent than any other team in the Championship this season, with the opposition taking 5.1 seconds on average to get the ball out at the breakdown.

Wales’ discipline has been a huge strength so far this year, conceding just nine penalties across their two matches, while they’ve been able to draw out 23 penalties from the opposition – no other team has been awarded 20+ this year.


It looks likely that the penalty count could well go in favour of Wales again this weekend. Ireland have conceded the most penalties of any team in 2024 (24), conceding more penalties in both of their matches than Wales have in the entire Championship this campaign (13 in their opening game vs France, 11 vs Italy in Round 2).

As far as weaknesses go, that’s about it for Ireland and one suspects that if they’re involved in a close match then head coach Farrell with get them to tighten up in that area.

This Wales team have struggled to make an impact with ball in hand in the Championship so far. Only Italy have recorded a lower dominant carry and gainline success rate than Gatland’s side (21% & 36% respectively). Sometimes failure to bludgeon your way over the gainline isn’t a disaster if you’re able to tie in two or three tacklers, helping to create space in other areas of the pitch. But Wales have committed two or more tacklers from just 47% of their carries, the lowest rate of any team this season.

We previously mentioned Wales have tended to keep the ball tight to the ruck. Perhaps that has made them too predictable with their carrying, particularly given that 42% of their carries are one-out drives (i.e. a carry from just one pass from the scrum-half) – no other side has a rate of 35%+. This means that teams can set up to defend the carry from the first receiver and, as a result, Wales’ average gain from these carries has been just 0.6 metres per carry. Only Italy (0.5m) have a lower rate, with Ireland (1.6m) having the highest.

When they have managed to break the defensive line, Wales haven’t been clinical enough either. Just 10% of their line breaks have led to a try so far at the Six Nations, a Championship low, with England (11%) the only other team under 25%.

Standout Players

Even if they’re missing some of their frontline players to injury, or the NFL, both Ireland and Wales have some flying wingers in their ranks. James Lowe has picked up where he left off in 2023 making four line breaks in the Championship this season, the joint most of any player, alongside Wales’ Rio Dyer.

Both sides have players who know their way to the try line too, with three of the four players to score multiple tries in the Six Nations this season doing so for either Ireland or Wales. That includes both the two forwards to manage that in Dan Sheehan and Alex Mann (also Calvin Nash).

Both teams have captains who lead by example too, none more so than Wales’ Dafydd Jenkins who has done plenty of the ‘unseen’ work in this year’s Six Nations. He’s hit 68 attacking rucks, more than any other player and 11 more than Caelan Doris – Ireland’s stand-in captain for their Round 2 fixture against Italy – who ranks joint second for attacking rucks alongside Scotland’s Scott Cummings (57).

Ireland skipper Peter O’Mahony returns to the squad and will lead his side out for what will be his 50th appearance in the Championship. In doing so, he’ll become the ninth Ireland player to reach that milestone in the Six Nations (after Rory Best, Ronan O’Gara, Brian O’Driscoll, Cian Healy, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, John Hayes and Paul O’Connell).

Ireland vs Wales Six Nations Prediction

Ahead of kick-off, the Opta supercomputer makes Ireland heavy favourites to win this clash at the Aviva Stadium this weekend. It gives them an 88.3% chance of emerging victorious, with Wales’ hopes a slim 10.9%.


Ireland vs Wales Lineups

Ireland: 15 Ciaran Frawley, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park; 1 Andrew Porter, 2 Dan Sheehan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 Joe McCarthy, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 7 Josh van der Flier, 8 Caelan Doris.

Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Oli Jager, 19 James Ryan, 20 Ryan Baird, 21 Jack Conan, 22 Conor Murray, 23 Stuart McCloskey.

Wales: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Josh Adams,13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Tomos William; 1 Gareth Thomas, 2 Elliot Dee, 3 Keiron Assiratt, 4 Dafydd Jenkins, 5 Adam Beard, 6 Alex Mann, 7 Tommy Reffell, 8 Aaron Wainwright.

Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Corey Domachowsk, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Mackenzie Marti, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Mason Grady.

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