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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Murphy: Welsh mean business

Full-back warns Irish not to take Croker clash lightly

Geordan Murphy believes Wales' swashbuckling style makes them capable of causing an upset at Croke Park tomorrow.

Ireland resume their RBS Six Nations campaign against a side that have become the championship's great entertainers with seven tries in three games.

But they have conceded the same number and for all their buccaneering they have only a solitary victory.

Ireland have won eight of the rivals' last 10 meetings and are odds-on favourites to extend that run tomorrow, but Murphy insists the outcome is far from a foregone conclusion.

"Wales have some great players," said the Leicester full-back.

"People have said they're not playing well but some of their tries are the best you'll see in the Six Nations.

"They're dangerous across the board when they play. Shane Williams can score a try from nothing. He has a fantastic sidestep.

"Leigh Halfpenny is the same. James Hook, Stephen Jones -- they're great players. If you let them play, they're dangerous.

"And if you don't let them play they can still come back at you at any time.

"They've played some fantastic rugby even if by their own admission they're not playing as well as they'd like to. They have no fear of Croke Park either."

Victory would move Ireland to within one win of the Triple Crown, their most likely prize after defeat by France left them trailing in the title race.

Even should France slip up against Italy or England, which appears unlikely given their rampant form, the points difference counts against the champions. Second place would be an acceptable return from a season when it was always going to be difficult to follow up on last year's Grand Slam triumph.

The clash with Wales will be a special occasion for skipper Brian O'Driscoll, who will be winning his 100th cap for Ireland.

Defence coach Les Kiss paid tribute to the enduringly brilliant 31-year-old, who has already sealed his status as an all-time great.

"There are things you know about him as a player, but once you know him intimately, then there is a more complete package right across the park," he said.

"I knew his defensive prowess before I came here, but it extends beyond the obvious. It goes into other areas in terms of what he does for the players around him.

"His ability to influence a game on and off the ball in defence is unbelievable."

Meanwhile, wing-wizard Shane Williams is adamant Wales are a far better team than recent results suggest.

They can only reflect on a case of what might have been, with their title aspirations shattered following defeats against England and France.

"I honestly believe we could have won all of our first three games in the Six Nations this year," said the Ospreys star, whose mesmeric solo try against France chalked up 50 for him in Wales colours.

"And yet here we are with just a solitary win. You can't help the 'what ifs' running through your head, because we are such a better team than our results suggest.

"This is all so horribly frustrating. We really aren't far from being a world-class side, I promise you. It really is a matter of inches."

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