Wales are chasing a third Grand Slam under Warren Gatland while Ireland are hoping to keep their own title hopes alive. Here’s what you need to know about Super Saturday’s sandwich filling
Six Nations Wales v Ireland Preview
A Wales v Ireland Six Nations Grand Slam decider in Cardiff. We’ve been here before!
In 2005 Wales welcomed Ireland to their national stadium when on the brink of securing a first championship clean sweep since 1978 – and they duly delivered. Gethin Jenkins and Kevin Morgan scored the tries that helped Mike Ruddock’s side to a 32-20 victory.
In 2009 it was Ireland chasing history, looking for a first Grand Slam in 61 years – and they duly delivered too. It was a far tighter affair on that occasion, Ireland winning 17-15 thanks to a late Ronan O’Gara drop-goal.
So what of 2019? Wales are the only team in the championship who can win a Grand Slam, but England and Ireland are still in the hunt for the trophy too.
This will be Warren Gatland’s 50th Six Nations match as Wales coach – and also his last as he is stepping down after the World Cup, as are a couple of other members of the back-room team.
Should Wales beat Ireland, Gatland will become the first coach to guide a team to three Grand Slams after the successes in 2008 and 2012.
Yet Ireland will be motivated to succeed for their coach, too, with Joe Schmidt also leaving his role after RWC 2019.
In the 11 years since Gatland took charge of Wales, matches between these two nations have always been tight, particularly in Cardiff. Only once since 2008 has the winning margin in the Welsh capital been in double figures.
This match is sure to be similarly close and is tough to call. In fact, the only thing that has been predictable so far is that the stadium’s roof has dominated the build-up.
It’s a pretty tasty sandwich filling for Super Saturday!
What’s the big team news?
Wales have named an unchanged match-day 23 for this final match of the championship, with Liam Williams fit to start at full-back after going off early in last weekend’s win over Scotland.
Former Scarlet Tadhg Beirne will make his Six Nations debut for Ireland in the second row alongside James Ryan, who will call the lineout for the first time in a Test. Beirne replaces the injured Iain Henderson.
There is another injury-enforced change in the back row with Sean O’Brien returning to the starting line-up in place of Josh van der Flier.
Rob Kearney was a late withdrawal for the France game but has recovered from a calf strain to start at full-back.
What have the coaches said?
Wales coach Warren Gatland: “I have not seen a group of players as motivated as this before and this excited about playing in a Grand Slam game, wanting to win and put that jersey on and play for themselves and their families and Wales as a whole and what it means to the country.
“We know what is at stake, and the prize is massive. We have spoken all week about embracing it and not running away from it.”
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt: “You’d love to go two weeks in a row with the same team. We haven’t really been afforded that luxury with the different injuries that we’ve had.
“It’s just a case of slotting people in and as I’ve said all through the Six Nations, it’s been a really positive challenge for us to see if we can mix and match players and still try to get some cohesion.”
Any interesting statistics?
- Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones will become the joint fifth most-capped player in the world, level with Gethin Jenkins on 134.
- Jacob Stockdale has made the most metres (324) and beaten the most defenders (21) in this year’s championship.
- Wales have the best defensive ranking in the championship, conceding a try every 53.3 minutes compared to Ireland’s one every 35.6 minutes. They have also conceded the fewest points overall – 58 in four matches.
- Ireland have made 800-plus more metres than Wales across the four games to date – 3,309 compared to 2,468.
- Wales have made nearly twice as many offloads as Ireland, 28 to 15, but Ireland have broken more than twice as many tackles as Wales, 36 to 16.
- Ireland have a 92% success rate in the lineout on their own throw and have stolen 24% of opponents’ throws, but Wales have only a 74% success rate on their throw and have stolen just 3%.
- Wales have four players – Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty – in the list of top 20 tacklers in the Six Nations whereas Ireland have none.
What time does it kick off and is it on TV?
Wales v Ireland, Saturday 16 March, Principality Stadium
This Test kicks off at 2.45pm on Saturday afternoon. It is live on BBC One in the UK and Virgin Media One in Ireland. Commentary will also be live on BBC Radio 5 live and RTE.
World Rugby Referee of the Year Angus Gardner, of Australia, is in charge of this Test, with Kiwi Ben O’Keeffe and England’s Karl Dickson as his assistants. It is the same trio that officiated Ireland’s win over France last week, albeit that Gardner and O’Keeffe have swapped roles. The TMO is Marius Jonker, of South Africa.
What are the line-ups?
WALES: Liam Williams; George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams; Gareth Anscombe, Gareth Davies; Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty.
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Aaron Wainwright, Aled Davies, Dan Biggar, Owen Watkin.
IRELAND: Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best (captain), Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Quinn Roux, Jack Conan, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty, Jordan Larmour.
Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.