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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Kidney fearful of Welsh guile

Irish coach wary of 'never-say-die' attitude in Gatland side

Ireland coach Declan Kidney admires the never-say-die attitude that he believes makes Wales formidable opponents in Saturday's Six Nations showdown at Croke Park.

The Welsh have lost two of their three matches to date but each game has been a thrilling spectacle as they conceded large leads before mounting a stirring fightback with mixed success.

Kidney recalls last season's clash at the Millennium Stadium when Stephen Jones missed a last-minute penalty to ignite Ireland's Grand Slam celebrations as evidence of a side that refuses to throw in the towel.

"Wales will be a lot like France in that any errors by our defensive line will be exploited," Kidney said.

"They're scoring a lot of points. They may have lost two but they're averaging more points than we are.

"We'll have to tighten up and match them in attack. The thing I really admire about Wales is that they play to the 80th minute.

"They did that last year in Cardiff -- had that kick gone over we'd have finished the championship on eight points each and we'd have won on points difference.

"Two years earlier they put one over on us at Croke Park, which as a venue doesn't hold any fear for them."

Wales prevailed 16-12 in Dublin two years ago but are not expected to upset the defending champions in the penultimate match at Croke Park.

Kidney has chosen to stick with the winning formula that showed tremendous character in beating England.

Geordan Murphy has retained his position at fullback, even though fellow Lion Rob Kearney has been restored to full fitness after recovering from a knee injury.

Kidney also ignored calls to give either Tony Buckley or Tom Court a run at tighthead, instead keeping faith with veteran John Hayes.

"We're trying to learn things about ourselves as a team. You have to balance bringing new fellas in with cohesiveness," said Kidney.

"On the balance of play I felt we needed to give the cohesiveness we built up in the last game another run.

"Against Wales it can be more dangerous when we're in possession because if we break down, their counter-attack play is exceptionally good.

"But we must also retain the ambition to play."



Lineout

Meanwhile, Wales coach Warren Gatland believes the lineout battle will be "a massive part" of Saturday's clash.

Luke Charteris and Bradley Davies will form Wales' fourth different second-row partnership in this season's tournament, and Matthew Rees becomes their third hooker in four games after Gareth Williams and Huw Bennett. Wales have lost a total of 11 lineouts on their own throw during the Six Nations so far, winning just one against the throw.

Contrast that with Ireland's superb return of stealing 14 opposition lineouts and losing only two on their own ball, and it underlines Wales' task.

"The lineout is going to be a massive part of the game," said Gatland.

"The Irish locks (Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan) are very comfortable if you kick the ball out.

"It's going to be huge for our locks, and we need to be more accurate," added the former Ireland coach.

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