IRELAND captain Brian O’Driscoll has pinpointed record-breaking, wing wizard Shane Williams as the main Wales danger to recent Irish superiority over their Celtic neighbours.
“Wales really tick when Shane Williams is playing well for them. He gets his hands on the ball a hell of a lot more than most international wingers.
He has big moments in big games for them,” said O’Driscoll.
“He has scored over half a century of tries (53) in 70-something (78) test matches which is a fairly impressive strike rate. You look at that alone, they are going to try and get the ball into his hands and create trouble for us defensively. I don’t think you’ve to be a genius to work that out.”
Of course, Wales are not a one-man show. They have other tools to get the job done. The increasingly influential second-row pairing of the powerful Bradley Davies and more athletic Alun Wyn-Jones is one of perfect balance.
Yet, they are still without their first choice props Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins. Imagine Ireland shorn of Cian Healy and Mike Ross.
It doesn’t bear thinking about. As it stands, Paul James and Craig Mitchell are able men, but no world-beaters.
Centre O’Driscoll is clearly not impressed with the relentless comment and reporting of Ireland’s indiscipline, which has been directly responsible for the defeat to France and allowing Scotland to make a late charge at Murrayfield.
“I really don’t see it as we’re in as bad a position, as a lot of the negativity that has surrounded the team. Some of it has been justified. But, it has clouded over the scores we have created and the amount of tries we have managed to score (7) in the Six Nations.
“There hasn’t been much of a reference to that. I am the eternal optimist. I prey on what positives we can take out of games. If we can outscore teams three tries to zero, there is a small fix in getting our discipline right. That excites me,” he said.
There will forever be a line drawn in the sand between those on the inside, the management and players, and those on the outside, the media and supporters.
“It filters from punditry to people reading papers and then the general public. There are a percentage of people that have a very good understanding,” he acknowledged. “Then, there is a large proportion of people that rely on what is said to base their opinions around. It is regurgitation of those (opinions).
“If people are dwelling on the negative that is going to be the over-riding feeling or mentality of people. I think that has been a little bit misplaced in the last few games.
“There are plenty of good things to be spoken about. But, they have been shelved away. There has been nonstop talking about discipline. It is an issue. But, it is a fixable issue.”
As ever, coach Declan Kidney was not letting his feet leave the ground or sink too deeply into the quicksand of comments that have been made since the start of the Six Nations.
“You are always looking for that perfect game. By definition, you can only play the best game of your life once,” he said.
“We haven’t been overly exciting. We’ve won two out of three. The other one we lost rather than being absolutely beaten in.
“It is that thin edge between really going for it and staying relaxed enough and trusting what we are doing in training.”
He doesn’t seem to be too concerned about the decision to keep the roof closed at The Millennium Stadium: “A lot of noise goes out through the roof. A bit of fresh air never did anybody any harm.”