Wales squad announcement ahead of Ireland test

Wales squad announcement
Wales' lock Adam Beard catches the ball in a lineout during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final match between Wales and South Africa at the International Stadium Yokohama in Yokohama on October 27, 2019. (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / AFP) (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)

Wayne Pivac has strengthened some basic principles ahead of their first major Six Nations test in Dublin. A bulked-up set-piece is the focus of his Wales squad announcement. 

Robert Rees looks at the game plan Pivac will set out to achieve this with, in his second test leading the Welsh team.

Wales look at strengthening lineout

The Welsh set-piece was entirely shaky throughout their 42-0 win over Italy, but the changes to the bench will help to ease that. The starting pack will now have a game under their belts and are match ready, and are settled.

Adam Beard’s return to fitness will see the Welsh lineout go from strength to strength and should see a classic battle off the bench between Adam Beard (see main photo) and Ireland’s Devin Toner.

Along with the lineout comes the driving maul. Rhys Carre’s inclusion not only adds the power game in the loose and at scrum time, but gives a huge amount of power off the bench to utilize in the driving maul which will need to stand strong, especially in defence against a forward-based Irish side.

Ryan Elias will also hope to add to this attacking threat off the bench, whilst Elliot Dee remains out with a rib injury.

Pivac looking at defence to win the game

Ireland are going to be well drilled and Wales must follow suit in order to go two from two. Gareth Davies’ return from injury will see a huge interception threat and line speed operator for Wales.

Rhys Webb looked off the pace last week in his return to a Wales jersey having not featured recently for Toulon after the contract disputes and Davies will be a welcome return whilst Webb regains match fitness and his confidence.

Nick Tompkins’ debut start will also see George North cover a position he’s more familiarly tuned into, something which will no doubt enhance the welsh defence alongside last week’s man of the match in many people’s eyes, Leigh Halfpenny.

Versatility crucial element in Wales squad announcement

With midfield injuries mounting up – Jon Davies, Scott Williams, Willis Halaholo and Owen Watkin all out – Wayne Pivac has looked to bring in some versatility to the Wales game plan.

Johnny McNicholl drops to the bench and will cover the back three whilst Owen Williams is set to earn just his fourth cap as he covers both 10 and 12, something he’s done with excellence at Gloucester.

Warren Gatland’s last venture in front of the Principality Stadium crowd. Credit @Rreesrugby.

Goal: overpower Ireland ‘grunt’

Ireland grunted their way to a win over Scotland in their opening game, something which had become a specialty for them in recent years. Their set-piece looked dangerous, they caused all sorts of problems to the Scottish breakdown and carried superbly over the gain line.

Wales looked to spread the ball wide versus Italy and they’ll likely do the same again in Dublin this weekend. The weather may halt that somewhat; with the incoming storm Ciara, but, Wayne Pivac has planned for such variances in the game with a powerful selection.

Carre, Elias and Leon Brown are all huge ball carriers and will share a workload with the ‘born to carry’ number eight Ross Moriarty.

Combine this impact from the bench with the punch of Taulupe Faletau and Dillon Lewis who are both already starting and a direct midfield duo of Tompkins and Hadleigh Parkes and you’ve got variance with excellence.

Ireland v Wales – Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Saturday, February 8


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