• Preview: Ireland vs Wales

    Ireland take on Wales on Saturday in what is the pick of the Six Nations fixtures this weekend.

    Both teams got off to winning starts, against Scotland and Italy respectively, but a loss in Dublin would dent their title aspirations. Defeat will also be a timely psychological blow in the penultimate Six Nations before the World Cup where they may meet. It's one of many subplots.

    Now, rewind 12 months and it was a green day in Cardiff as that clinical start from Declan Kidney's side left Wales scrambling to recover from a 20-0 deficit. Put simply, it was an excellent 30-minute spell from Ireland but they made to work hard to hold on to that 30-22 win.

    Wales lost that opener despite having almost twice as much possession as their visitors in a defeat that was their first to them in three years. However, they are known to start the Six Nations slowly – last week is evidence of that – so facing Ireland in round two allows them time to gel.

    Returning to boost Ireland's hopes of victory are Paul O'Connell and Gordon D'Arcy, with both having been in strong form over the past four months.

    Cian Healy is certainly in the top five loosehead props in world rugby right now and his tussle with Adam Jones is going to be interesting. His work in open play sets him apart from other props while on the other side of the scrum it's Mike Ross against a returning Gethin Jenkins. Lions duo Rory Best and Richard Hibbard will also clash in the hooking spot.

    Sam Warburton is back for Wales as he takes the place of Justin Tipuric on the openside. His ability to turn over ball in the tackle could prove instrumental. If referee Wayne Barnes sides with him early, Wales will profit; if not, Ireland will have the ascendancy and also the points.

    Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell (c), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
    Subs: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Martin Moore, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Fergus McFadden.

    Wales – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun-Wyn Jones (c), 4 Andrew Coombs, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
    Subs: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 James Hook, 23 Liam Williams.

    Preview: Scotland vs England

    Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

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    Simon Borchardt