Six Nations: Wales v Ireland

The roof is closed and the stage is set for a mammoth battle between Wales and Ireland in Cardiff

Patrick Madden Fri, Mar 10
 
LIVE: Six Nations: Wales v Ireland

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  • Good evening, and happy Friday!

    Hopefully by now you've tackled your evening commute and you're settled on the settee or bar stool and ready for one of the games of the Six Nations.

    Tonight Ireland take on a wounded Wales at the Millennium Stadium.

    For Joe Schmidt's side a win could tee up a Championship deciding clash against England in Dublin next weekend.

    For the hosts the Six Nations title might be gone after their defeat to Scotland last time out, but there are vital World Cup ranking points, Lions Tour places and above all else the pride of a nation at stake here.

    Wales's national stadium is one of rugby's most iconic venues, and with the roof shut tonight (in case you didn't know) expect it to crackle like no other ground can.

    It will be loud, it will be brutal and it will be brilliant.

    Here's to a cracker.

    Come on!!!

  • TEAM NEWS:

    WALES: L Halfpenny (Toulon); G North (Northampton), J Davies (Scarlets), S Williams (Scarlets), L Williams (Scarlets); D Biggar (Ospreys), R Webb (Ospreys); R Evans (Scarlets), K Owens (Scarlets), T Francis (Exeter), J Ball (Scarlets), A W Jones (Ospreys, capt), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), J Tipuric (Ospreys), R Moriarty (Gloucester). Replacements: S Baldwin (Ospreys), N Smith (Ospreys), S Lee (Scarlets), L Charteris (Bath), T Faletau (Bath), G Davies (Scarlets), S Davies (Ospreys), J Roberts (Harlequins).

    IRELAND: R Kearney (Leinster); K Earls (Munster), G Ringrose (Leinster), R Henshaw (Leinster), S Zebo (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); J McGrath (Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), T Furlong (Leinster); D Ryan (Munster), D Toner (Leinster); CJ Stander (Munster), S O’Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster). Replacements: N Scannell (Munster), C Healy (Leinster), J Ryan (Munster), I Henderson (Ulster), P O’Mahony (Munster), K Marmion (Connacht), P Jackson (Ulster), T Bowe (Ulster).

  • Both starting line-ups are unchanged from the third round of fixtures, and you can get to know each XV that bit better with our in-depth player profiles:

    WALES

    IRELAND

  • Much has been made of the Millennium roof being shut tonight, and while you would like to think Ireland are a savvy enough side not to let this play a part in the outcome of the match, it is undeniable there is something different about the atmosphere created in Cardiff.

    This is something Matt Williams brilliantly puts across in his column today, which you can read HERE.

    "Pints in one hand, half-smoked cigarettes in the other – it was the 1980s – every man, women and child knew their harmonic range. The songs were more than religious. They were an expression of nationality, community and the god given love of rugby that makes it so much more than a game to the Welsh.

    "The hymns sent a message of unity, of a refusal to give in to the adversity of life. The sound expresses an undying hope and belief that they, the Welsh, will overcome whatever may, and prevail. You can’t help but sing along even when, like me, you hit every flat note."

  • That said, if anyone can silence Wales tonight it is Joe Schmidt's Ireland. He has stuck with the same side who beat France last time out, with just one change on the bench - Tommy Bowe coming in for the injured Andrew Trimble.

    By far the highlight of the third round win over Les Bleus was the quite brilliant return of Johnny Sexton, and that he made it through a bruising encounter unscathed. The hosts are likely to start at an adrenaline-fuelled rate of knots so it is vital Sexton can control things form the off and take the sting out of it early doors.

  • Rob Howley has also, perhaps surprisingly, stuck with the same squad for tonight's game. Ross Moriarty can count himself lucky to have kept Taulupe Faletau out of the starting XV again while there have been growing calls for Liam Williams to start at 15 over Leigh Halfpenny.

    However, there's now a real chance for redemption as Wales look to avoid three consecutive Championship losses for the first time since 2007. Defeat will also put them in real danger of slipping out of the world's top eight, which could see them lumbered with another group of death at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.  

  • Joe Schmidt: "I think it's noisy and sweaty anyway. Two years ago we played with the roof closed and it was a lot drier than it is now. For us we'll just adapt to the conditions. It's always raucous here anyway.

    On the watered pitch: "It's very wet, which is a surprise to us and it could create difficulties handling the ball and getting into the game early on.

    On picking the same side: "Continuity is week to week, we've had a bit of a recess inbetween France and this match and every match is a new challenge... hopefully there is a bit of cohesion out there and the guys are getting to know each other a bit better."

  • There are endless subplots tonight but one of the biggest is this summer's Lions tour.

    A number of players on show will be going head to head for Test places in New Zealand - especially the scrumhalves Conor Murray and Rhys Webb, who are currently the northern hemisphere's two standout number nines.

  • Where's everybody watching tonight? Get in touch!
  • 10 minutes to go. How are the nerves?
  • The teams are in the tunnel in Cardiff.
  • And here they come, to a guttural roar and a raft of fireworks.
  • Time for Ireland's Call. Sang with gusto, but it's a sideshow for what's coming next.
  • Land of My Fathers hair-raisingly loud.

    Game on.

  • Dan Biggar has the ball in hand. Here we go.

    WE'RE OFF!

  • 1 min: Ireland field the kick off well and Murray boxkicks up to the 10. Wales get quick ball and O'Brien nearly intercepts in midfield but the ball goes forward. Wales get good ball but then McGrath rips and turns it over on the 10.
  • 2 min: Irish ball and Sexton loops and spins it wide to Zebo who chips ahead. Wales under pressure on the 22 and they kick as far as Earls who runs it back. Tipuric knocks forward in the tackle and Ireland will have the game's first scrum.

    Good early signs, Ireland using the width and Wales very narrow.

  • 3 min: Ireland's first scrum is strong and it's moved to Henshaw who pops it inside to Ringrose on the crash. Good ball retention from Ireland and Sexton sends up a hanger towards North and the ball goes loose after a good chase from Ringrose. Wales under the cosh on their five but Biggar clears to touch well.
  • 4 min: Best hits Stander in the lineout and Ireland move it quickly, Zebo coming in off his flank to take an inside ball from Sexton. Ireland move it left and the ball goes loose from a Stander pass but Henshaw is met with a high tackle from Webb as he swoops on it.

    Penalty to Ireland, chance for Sexton to get Ireland on the board. It's to the left of the sticks and inside the 10. He nails it.

    6 MIN: WALES 0 IRELAND 3

  • 7 min: Great start from the visitors. They run a phase from the restart and then Murray can only find Halfpenny with a clearing box kick. Wales have the ball but a Sexton reads a Biggar pass to intercept, before Earls grubbers an excellent kick into the corner.
  • 8 min: Wales do well to retain their lineout ball but O'Brien gets pinged for offside, and the hosts can breathe.
  • 9 min: Wales maul and then use the width out wide, the ball coming to North who smashes the covering Kearney. At the next phase O'Brien gets one back for his Leinster team mate, thumping Biggar.
  • 10 min: There are some huge hits going in here. Wales move it left and Biggar stabs through to Liam Williams and Wales have some momentum. They move it right and North powers his way into the 22.
  • 11 min: Wales retaining the ball well under the Irish posts with a split either side. They work the blind and Liam Williams is well tackled. Solid Irish defence and when Wales move it right Jonathan Davies spills Biggar's pass forward. Ireland penalty for a Welsh offside and Sexton finds touch.
  • 12 MIN: WALES 0 IRELAND 3
  • 13 min: To call this breathless would be an understatement. It's frantic and loose and Zebo intercepts on the left and puts a brilliant kick in behind which the scrambling Biggar does well to touch down ingoal.
  • 14 min: Welsh knock on and the ball comes for Stander who makes a huge carry on the left and absolutely destroys the tackler. Ireland have a penalty advantage and after a crossfield kick goes out of play they stick it into the corner.
  • 15 min: Ireland can smell blood but their five metre lineout is pinched by skipper Jones and Moriarty makes yards before it's kicked.
  • 16 min: Ireland possession and Sexton kicks but it's too long - Welsh scrum on their 10 metre and a big early test.

    Their pack holds up though and Webb gets quick ball and they use the hands out to Liam Williams on the left who grubbers through - Sexton is across to cover. Ireland clear their lines but Sexton is down and will need some treatment.

  • 18 min: Sexton is heading off for a HIA and Paddy Jackson is on. Wayne Barnes is going to check with the TMO for potential foul play - but replays show there was no malice in Johnathan Davies' collision with Sexton.
  • TRY WALES!!!!!!!!!!!
  • That is stunning rugby. Wales maul briefly from the lineout before Webb picks and gives it to Scott Williams who breaks the line and offloads to Webb. Webb sweeps it wide to Halfpenny who finds a rampaging North on the wing and he clatters through three tacklers to cross the line.

    Halfpenny pulls the conversion.

    20 MIN: WALES 5 IRELAND 3

  • 21 min: Wales are sloppy at the restart and Kearney pounces but then a soft knock on gives the ball back. Kicks are traded before Biggar, under serious pressure from Jackson, finds the Irish 10-metre with a narrow kick from deep in his own 22.
  • 23 min: Ireland are dominating in the air and Wales get penalised for obstruction - Jackson sticks a brilliant touch finder deep into the Welsh 22.
  • 24 min: Ireland maul, Stander nursing it at the back. There's an advantage coming and they try to batter their way down the shortside. Ireland camped on the five keeping it in the tight. Back for the penalty - Wales collapsing the maul. Jackosn sends it for a five metre lineout.
  • 25 min: Toner wins and Ireland maul but there's a good counter drive from Wales. Stander peels and then Wales are penalised again for Tipuric releasing the tackler.  

    This time Jackson will go for the posts, makes no mistake.

    26 MIN: WALES 5 IRELAND 6

  • Sexton is back on.
  • 27 min: Ireland solid from the restart and Murray clears well up to halfway.
  • 28 min: Quick Welsh ball but again Sexton reads and intercepts a flat Biggar pass. Ireland are then turned over at the next ruck before Earls nearly intercepts a looped Scott Williams pass. Welsh scrum.
  • 29 min: Solid Welsh scrum and they move it, Murray scragging Webb after the ball was gone. The ball slows down for Wales but Johnathan Davies gets them inside the 10. 10 phases for Wales but Ireland's linespeed is good and eventually it's back to Biggar who sends up a hanger. Ringrose seizes on the loose ball but it was knocked forward by Zebo.

    Murray in real bother after tackling North earlier in that passage of play, looks like an arm injury.

  • 30 MIN: WALES 5 IRELAND 6
  • Murray is back on his feet and carrying on. Phew.
  • 31 min: The Welsh scrum solid again and Webb finds North who makes a big carry. Wales move it left and they're retaining it well on the Irish 22. Murray looks in real bother every time he tackles. Forward pass from Webb to Liam Williams, Ireland can breathe.
  • 33 min: Heaslip nurses the ball at the base of the scrum and it wheels. Reset. Be interesting to see how Murray's pass is.
  • 34 min: Ireland get it out and use Henshaw as a battering ram to get them out of the 22. Murray sends a loopy ball to Sexton who kicks high but Kearney does well to claim it. Furlong then knocks on a short Murray ball - he can't pass properly.
  • 36 min: Strong Welsh scrum and Webb feeds Liam Williams on the short side who darts into the Irish 22, Murray falling off the tackle. Wales using their blunt instruments to try and hammer their way deeper into Irish territory.
  • 37 min: Wales have the penalty coming and it's chipped wide to Liam Williams who pops inside to Halfpenny who finds Johnathan Davies and he is held up just short.

    Barnes blows his whistle - Ireland spoiling on the floor. Sexton is sent to the bin!

    Halfpenny will go for goal from under the posts, knocks it over.

    38 MIN: WALES 8 IRELAND 6

  • 39 min: Zebo takes the restart and finds Biggar who can clear under no pressure. Ireland possession on the halfway - they need to hold onto it until half time.
  • 40 min: Great dancing run from Earls on the left and Ireland are up towards the Welsh 22. And then Heaslip spills a Murray pass forward.
  • HT: WALES 8 IRELAND 6
  • I'm off for a quick lineout.
  • Wales out a few minutes early to run through some passes. Murray comes back out with Ireland.

    Zebo gets us back underway.

  • 41 min: Biggar can't find touch with his clearance from the restart and Zebo dances back at Wales. There's a big tackle on Toner but Ireland have the ball inside the Welsh 10, Earls with a great jinking run up past the gainline.
  • 42 min: Ireland looking to nurse the ball and get through these seven Sexton-less minutes. Good yards from Henshaw on the right before Stander gets double-teamed and forced back. Good Irish ball retention until O'Brien is loose with a pass and Webb seizes on it. Webb kicks in behind and Murray covers but he is scragged and hauled into touch by Halfpenny.
  • TRY WALES!!!!!!!!!
  • Wales set the maul from the lineout with the man advantage and grind infield until Webb picks and pops to North on the short side and he crashes over the line.

    Halfpenny with a tricky touchline conversion, and he nails it.

    45 MIN: WALES 15 IRELAND 6

  • Kieran Marmion on for Murray. Huge blow.
  • 46 min: Ireland looking ragged and they're turned over on halfway. Webb spies the space inbehind and kicks ahead where Henshaw does brilliantly to cover and Zebo can clear from 10.
  • 47 min: Good Welsh lineout ball and Webb sees half a gap before running into traffic. Wales have the ball inside the Irish 22 and are building the phases.
  • 48 min: Conceding again here would be a killer. Good linespeed from Ireland but they are being stretched both ways. There's acres of space on the right for Wales and Ringrose just about holds up Scott Williams. Huge defensive shift and Marmion hauls Moriarty into touch on the right.  

    Johnny comes back on.

  • 15 MIN: WALES 15 IRELAND 6
  • 50 min: Heaslip claims the lineout and Ireland maul before Wales pull it down and concede a penalty.  
  • 51 min:  Great ball off the top for Ireland and they move it to Earls on the right. Back infield and there's a nice combination between Sexton, Henshaw and Zebo. Big carry from Stander and Ireland are retaining the ball a lot better.
  • 52 min: Ryan of all people makes a line break into the 22 on the left and the momentum is with Ireland. They're up to 12 phases and on the Welsh five metre on the right. They loop in midfield and out to Kearney who gets smashed by Liam Williams. O'Brien gets them back up to the five and then Best nearly loses it but retrieves it. Ireland up to 20 phases and hammering away.
  • 53 min: 26 phases now and Sexton's pass goes loose but Heaslip recovers. This is a mammoth passage of play and Ireland finally win a penalty - Sexton puts it for a five metre lineout.  
  • 54 min: No Irish lineout maul but they have the ball in hand - there's a high tackle on Ringrose and play is brought back after the busy Marmion tries to dart through a gap and loses it.

    This time Ireland will take the points, Sexton knocks it over.

    56 MIN: WALES 15 IRELAND 9

  • 57 min: Ireland look to play their way out of trouble and just about manage it as Henshaw hacks up the right but it's straight to a red jersey. Wales on the front foot inside the Irish 22.
  • 58 min: Ireland do well to slow it down and Wales keep it in the tight. Webb feeds it back to Biggar in the pocket and his dropgoal pings into the left post.
  • Cian Healy on for McGrath. Not a bad sub to have up your sleeve.
  • 59 min: Short Irish dropout and Tipuric steals it but then plays the ball on the deck and Sexton clears the penalty to touch on the halfway.
  • 60 MIN: WALES 15 IRELAND 9
  • 60 min: Wales pinch the Irish lineout and Biggar kicks high, the ball falling back for Ireland. Great step from Stander and he releases Henshaw and then Zebo on the left. Sexton has the ball with not much on but he steps and gets Ireland back on the front foot.
  • 61 min: Sexton changes the point of attack with a high kick and Henshaw forces Halfpenny into a mistake. Ireland have been utterly dominant in the air.
  • Iain Henderson on for Toner.
  • 62 min: Wales steal another Ireland lineout but Wales can't capitalise and a loose kick hands possession back. Sexton spins a great ball out to Earls and he makes good ground on the right before he's hauled into touch.

    Peter O'Mahony replaces Stander.

  • 63 min: Finally a good Welsh challenge in the air and Biggar claims it in midfield. It's swung out to Halfpenny on the right but he can't beat Zebo on the outside. Welsh ball on the Irish 10 - before Ireland force a good turnover.
  • 64 min: Brilliant vision form Ringrose in midfield, stabbing it in behind and then scragging the covering Halfpenny. Good clearance from Webb but it bounces kindly for Ireland who put Halfpenny under pressure with another high ball and he loses it again. Sexton goes crossfield and it's poor but Ireland swamp Wales and the hosts are under serious pressure inside their own five.
  • 66 min: So close for Ireland, Biggar's clearance is half charged down and it comes for Furlong but he's quickly tackled. Irish lineout deep inside the Welsh 22.
  • 67 min: This time the Irish lineout is good and they get quck ball before executing a maul infield. It doesn't get much traction though so Marmion uses it - Ireland retaining the ball inside the Welsh 22.
  • 68 min: Deep ball to Henshaw, there's not much on so he grubbers through and Halfpenny covers and is carried ingoal by Zebo - but a lineout is awarded instead. Huge chance.
  • 69 min: Henderson claims the lineout and Ireland maul, inching their way forward. There's space on the short side but they keep grunting forward until then Henshaw comes in from the side and Wales get the penalty.
  • 70 MIN: WALES 15 IRELAND 9
  • 70 min: Biggar sends the penalty to touch. Ireland's lack of killer instinct has been fruatrating.
  • 71 min: Scrappy on the floor from Wales and Ireland get a scrum inside the Welsh 10.  
  • 72 min: Good scrum and a crossfield kick from Sexton is straight into Zebo's breadbasket. He's held up and then Sexton switches the play again, this time though Earls can't win it in the air and Wales will have a lineout on their five metre.

    Big pressure from Ireland and Gareth Davies is scragged ingoal. Five metre scrum for Ireland.

  • 74 min: Solid scrum and Marmion is told to use it. Ireland use Henshaw as a decoy and Ringrose's pass to Earls goes forward, and Ireland get pinged for offside.
  • 76 min: Ireland have the ball deep and Heaslip is dumped back by Liam Williams. Then a Sexton pass goes loose. Ireland have the ball but not the territory.
  • 77 min: Ireland retaining the ball but it's very, very slow. Less than three minutes to go.
  • TRY WALES!!!!!!
  • And that's all she wrote. Ireland are going nowhere and Sexton looks to kick over the top but he's charged down by Faletau and Roberts is onto the loose ball and over the line.

    Halfpenny converts.

    79 MIN: WALES 22 IRELAND 9

  • 80 min: Ireland plugging away looking to bounce back but again they knock it forward and that's game over.
  • Tommy Bowe was on as a sub but now he's being helped off the pitch.
  • 80 min: Ireland have the ball back and are still having a go, Jackson nearly sniping through a gap. They lose possession and Wales run it back looking for a bonus point score, North being desperately held up on the 22.  
  • FT: WALES 22 IRELAND 9
  • Dave M Fair play to Wales - fantastic test match.
  • Thanks for joining tonight - it was enthralling if ultimately disappointing.

    We'll be back tomorrow to bring you the rest of the weekend's action.

    Cya!