PREVIEW: Wales vs Ireland

PREVIEW: Wales vs Ireland
Ireland will want to ruin Warren Gatland's welcome home party when they face Wales at Principality Stadium in the opening match of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

The Kiwi could not have asked for a tougher test in his first game since replacing Wayne Pivac as Wales head coach, with Ireland currently the number-one ranked side in the world.

Gatland cut his coaching teeth on the Emerald Isle, but Farrell has won three of his four encounters with Wales since taking charge in 2019 – though he did lose the one match in Cardiff.

That includes last year's clash when Ireland stormed to a convincing 29-7 win at Aviva Stadium, but there is everything to play for as the 2023 Guinness Six Nations gets underway.

Liam Williams will start at full-back for Wales in Saturday's Guinness Six Nations opener after Leigh Halfpenny was ruled due to injury.

The 97-cap international was set to make his first start for Wales in 19 months but has been suffering from back spasms in training.

Rio Dyer and Josh Adams are named on the wings, while at centre, Joe Hawkins will link up with Wales’ most-capped men’s international back George North.

Dan Biggar starts at fly half alongside Tomos Williams at scrum half, while in the front row, captain Ken Owens is joined by Gareth Thomas and Tomas Francis.
Adam Beard and living legend Alun Wyn Jones are in the engine room, and the back row sees Jac Morgan at blindside flanker, Justin Tipuric at openside flanker and Taulupe Faletau at No. 8.

Finlay Bealham will make his first Guinness Six Nations start for Ireland in place of Tadhg Furlong, who has struggled with ankle and calf injuries in recent weeks.

Andrew Porter and Dan Sheehan also start in the front row, with Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan completing the tight-five.

Josh van der Flier will start at openside, Peter O’Mahony is set to play on the blindside, and Caelan Doris has been selected at No.8.

In the backs, Jamison Gibson-Park will partner captain Johnny Sexton at nine and ten.
Stuart McCloskey is named alongside Garry Ringrose in the centres and Hugo Keenan will play at full-back. Mack Hansen and James Lowe will start on the wings for Ireland.
- Warren Gatland has been involved in 60 Six Nations games as a head coach (50 with Wales, 10 with Ireland), the same tally as the other five Head Coaches in this year’s Championship combined.
- Ireland won the Triple Crown in 2022, their sixth in the Six Nations era, more than any other nation (England 5, Wales 5, Scotland 0). Ireland were the last team to win the Triple Crown in back-to-back campaigns, doing so in 2006-07.
- Wales’ George North (22) requires just one more try to overtake Shane Williams (22) as his country’s top try scorer in the Guinness Six Nations and four more to match Brian O’Driscoll (26) as the Championship’s all-time leading try scorer.
- Ireland’s Johnny Sexton (531) and England’s Owen Farrell (500) could both overtake Ronan O’Gara (557) as the all-time leading Six Nations point scorer in this year’s Championship – Jonny Wilkinson is the only other player to have scored 500+ points in the Five/Six Nations (546, incl. 60 in the Five Nations).

Latest News