When is it, where is it on, who else is playing this weekend?
Wales will play Ireland at 2.15pm at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday in the first game of the 2023 Six Nations. England then play Scotland at Twickenham at 4.45pm. Italy play France at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday, February 5th at 3pm Irish time.
How can I watch it?
The game is on free to air on Virgin Media One in Ireland. You can also watch the game on the BBC. If you can’t be by a TV or want additional coverage, check out our live blogs on Irish Times Sport.
How does the points scoring work?
This is the seventh year of the bonus-point system after its introduction in 2017. Teams are awarded four points for a win and two for a draw, with an extra point awarded for scoring at least four tries, or losing by seven points or fewer.
What happened in this fixture last year?
Ireland beat Wales comfortably, 29-7, at the Aviva Stadium. Andrew Conway scores two tries, Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose all got over the line, as Ireland got the bonus point.
[ Forget the acrimony, Irish rugby owes Warren Gatland a belated ‘thanks’ ]
How did the Six Nations go last year?
France won the Six Nations and Grand Slam in impressive fashion, with five wins, a 30-24 victory over Ireland in Paris being the difference. Ireland finished second, 11 points ahead of England in third, who finished ahead of Scotland on points difference. Wales were fifth and Italy took the wooden spoon.
Warren Gatland is back
The former Ireland head coach is back in charge of Wales after leaving in 2019. During his 12 years managing Wales, he won three Grand Slams and reached two World Cup semi-finals. Not a bad pedigree. After only three wins out of 12 Tests in a disastrous 2022 return under Wayne Pivac, and fifth place in the Six Nations last year, Gatland has quite the job to revive Wales.
[ Six Nations: Reviving Wales is Warren Gatland’s greatest challenge yet ]
Sexton starts likely his last Six Nations campaign
Ireland’s captain Johnny Sexton has declared he is “good to go” to lead Ireland in their opening game. There were injury doubts after the outhalf suffered a fracture to his cheekbone in Leinster’s win over Connacht on New Year’s Day. The 37-year-old previously said he would retire after the 2023 World Cup, so it is likely the last time he will play in an Irish shirt in the competition he won three times (2014, 2015 and 2018).
Sexton will be backed up by Jack Crowley and the recalled Ross Byrne after Joey Carbery was left out of an Irish squad for the first time, when fit, since his debut against the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016.
[ Johnny Sexton says he is ‘good to go’ to lead Ireland in Six Nations ]
Tadhg Furlong has been ruled out of Ireland’s opening game Wales of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations against Wales, meaning Finlay Bealham will start in his place with Tom O’Toole promoted to the bench. It will be Bealham’s first start in the Six Nations. As expected, Stuart McCloskey has retained his place at inside centre in the continuing absence of Robbie Henshaw. In a late change to the line-up, scrumhalf Conor Murray will play after Jamison Gibson-Park was ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan (Leinster); Mack Hansen (Connacht), Garry Ringrose (Leinster), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster), James Lowe (Leinster); Johnny Sexton (Leinster, capt), Conor Murray (Munster); Andrew Porter (Leinster), Dan Sheehan (Leinster), Finlay Bealham (Connacht); Tadhg Beirne (Munster), James Ryan (Leinster); Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster), Caelan Doris (Leinster).
Replacements: Rob Herring (Ulster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Tom O’Toole (Ulster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Jack Conan (Leinster), Craig Casey (Munster), Ross Byrne (Leinster), Bundee Aki (Connacht).
Leigh Halfpenny starts for Wales for the first time in 19 months. He lines out at fullback with Liam Williams out injured. George North and Joe Hawkins form an intriguing midfield duo with Dan Biggar partnered by Tomos Williams at halfback.
Up front, Gatland has opted for experience with Ken Owens, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Toby Faletau all starting. Breakdown fetcher Jac Morgan also lines out at blindside flanker.
Wales: L Halfpenny (Scarlets); J Adams (Cardiff), G North (Ospreys), J Hawkins (Ospreys), R Dyer (Dragons); D Biggar (Toulon), T Williams (Cardiff); G Thomas (Ospreys), K Owens (Scarlets, capt), T Francis (Ospreys); A Beard (Ospreys), A W Jones (Ospreys); J Morgan (Ospreys), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Faletau (Cardiff).
Replacements: S Baldwin (Ospreys), R Carre (Cardiff), D Lewis (Cardiff), D Jenkins (Exeter), T Reffell (Leicester), R Webb (Ospreys), O Williams (Ospreys), A Cuthbert (Ospreys).
Who’s on the whistle?
Karl Dickson from England will referee the game. Angus Gardner and Luke Pearce will be assistant referees, with Tom Foley on TMO.