Sunday 21 January 2018

Welsh legend Shane Williams: 'I fancy Ireland to edge it'

Schmidt's tactical nous gives his team the edge

Shane Williams
Shane Williams
Joe Schmidt

"Sometimes games are won and lost in the war-room."

This is the opinion of Wales' legendary wing Shane Williams ahead of what is certain to be an enthralling tactical match-up between two experienced head coaches.

"Joe Schmidt is one of the best tacticians I've certainly seen as a coach," voiced Williams.

"What Ireland are doing at the moment is effective and is working, coming off a ten-game winning streak.

"If it's not broke why fix it?" he asked.

"Statistically and form-wise Ireland are the better team. They will be favourites going into the game."

Wales coach Gatland is no slouch when it comes to devising a game-plan.


No one will forget how Sam Warburton, Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau chopped down Ireland's back-row and World Cup dreams back in 2011.

And then there are the mind games.

"We all know Warren enjoys teasing the opposition and teasing the press. Sometimes it's effective, sometimes it's going to backfire," he stated.

"What the thinking behind it is, I really have no idea. As players we use to have a little giggle ourselves but as far as we were concerned, we didn't need the pressure."

So far, Wales have steered clear of controversy other than Shaun Edwards call to ban the choke tackle. It will all come down to what happens on the field of play.

"Warren certainly knows Joe Schmidt is a good tactician and Warren has got his work cut out - he really has," said Williams.

"Ireland have been the better team at tactically working teams out, choking teams, not only in the choke tackle, but they seem to be choking teams into submission, at the moment, and playing the style of rugby that suits Ireland.

"If Ireland manipulate Wales into playing the way Ireland want to play on Saturday, it's going to be an easy Irish victory, I think.

"I've been really impressed by Ireland, the way they have played in the Six Nations.

"They haven't blown me away with the style in which they play and the tempo, but I think they have been very successful with the tactics they have played with."

Ireland have set their oh-so-close performance against New Zealand in November 2013 as their benchmark. It is something they are always trying to get back to.

Wales must be looking to locate that championship winning performance they found against England two years ago. That has to be their template.

It would surely be good enough to put an end to Ireland's winning streak.

"I was there watching that game in Cardiff and that is one of the best Welsh performances I have seen," said the Welsh record try-scorer.

"They played with such confidence. It was one of those games where nothing seemed to go wrong for them, to be fair.

"Wales were very effective and completely 'out-physical-ed' England, which doesn't happen very often, and scored some great tries. They were very effective in all facets of the game.

"I hope they play like that on Saturday and I do believe, on that day, they could have beaten any team. I really do.

"So, yeah, if Wales play like that, against any team, I don't see them losing.

"They are playing an Irish side, though, that are not going to let them play like that. Wales completely bullied England on that day. That does not happen to Ireland."

The secret to taking Ireland down is to limit the impact of their half-backs with the goal to make Jonathan Sexton uncomfortable and unconvincing on the end of Conor Murray's service.

"It is easier said than done that you have to keep Sexton quiet, but these are the tactics you must have. You have to put him under pressure.

"You have to make sure the service to Conor Murray isn't the best - you've got to put Murray under pressure.

"Tactically, you have to be better than the opposition. Again, easier said than done. That is why Schmidt is so good."

ireland v wales

Ireland have been better

at tactically working

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