Six Nations 2019: Wales v Ireland - all you need to know
Schmidt and Gatland say their Six Nations farewells on the final weekend in Cardiff
Joe Schmidt is going into his final Six Nations match as Ireland coach. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
In the protracted build-up to the 2019 Six Nations, it always seemed likely Saturday’s clash between Ireland and Wales in Cardiff would decide the destination of the title.
For Joe Schmidt’s side - second in the world, on top of the world - a trip to the Millennium Stadium looked to be the final hurdle between them and back-to-back Grand Slams.
As for Wales, this fixture would offer redemption if England were to sack the Welsh capital in round three - or could again prove to be the final leg of a Championship clean sweep.
It is the latter which transpired. Warren Gatland’s side - who have won 13 Test matches on the bounce - are one win away from a first Grand Slam since 2012.
Ireland meanwhile travel to Cardiff needing a victory to turn an average tournament into a relatively successful one, and to tee them up nicely ahead of their Rugby World Cup voyage in September.
The irony is that an Ireland victory is almost guaranteed to hand the title to England, unless Scotland can pull off a miracle at Twickenham.
Not that Schmidt’s charges will care. An epic awaits at the Millenium Stadium - here is all you need to know before Ireland and Wales meet in Cardiff.
What is it?
Wales welcome Ireland to Cardiff in the final round of the 2019 Six Nations.
When is it?
The game kicks-off at 2.45pm on Saturday, March 16th.
How can I watch it?
The game is being shown free-to-air on Virgin Media One and on the BBC - but why not follow via the Irish Times liveblog from 2.15pm onwards?
For the Millennium Stadium, on the final weekend of the Six Nations, with Wales chasing the Grand Slam? Ha!
What happened last weekend?
Ireland produced their best performance of the Championship to date as they blew a shambolic France side out of the water in Dublin, racking up four tries in a 26-14 win. Ireland’s power game was much-improved having been lacking in the opening three games, but they were profligate and left a number of scores behind them. Irish inaccuracy, combined with two cheap scores conceded at the death, ensured the scoreboard flattered Les Bleus.
Wales’ second-half performance against England was the most impressive 40 minutes of rugby played in the Championship, seeing them run out 21-13 winners in Cardiff. And so, after beating the English, coughing up the opportunity to win the Grand Slam by losing to Scotland was never an option. Wales dominated the opening half at Murrayfield but lost their rhythm in the second. A tireless defensive effort - combined with Scottish profligacy - resulted in an 18-11 win.
Ireland, Wales and England can all win the Championship this weekend, here is a look at who needs what:
Ireland currently sit in third place on 14 points, meaning an improbable bonus point win away to Wales would leave them on 19. England have 15 points and are likely to beat Scotland with a bonus point - so Ireland’s total of 19 wouldn’t be enough. Should England beat Scotland without a bonus point, they would still be likely to win the tournament ahead of Ireland on points difference - England’s is +83, Ireland’s is +19. If Ireland beat Wales and Scotland beat England, the Championship is almost guaranteed to be Ireland’s.
If Wales beat Ireland with a bonus point they finish on 21 points, with a further three bonus points awarded for the Grand Slam leaving them on 24 overall. Victory without a bonus point would see them finish on 20 points - with the Grand Slam bonus then leaving them on 23. Defeat will see Wales miss out on the title - unless they secure two losing bonus points and Scotland beat England, which is unlikely. Wales currently have a superior points difference to Ireland - +31 to +19.
England are in a strong position providing Ireland can beat Wales in Cardiff. If they do, a bonus point win over Scotland would guarantee the title, while a win without a bonus point should almost certainly be enough, given Ireland are 64 points worse off on points difference. If Scotland win at Twickenham for the first time since 1983, then the title will go to Ireland or Wales.
Joe Schmidt is set to make three changes from the side who beat France. A knee injury rules out Iain Henderson, allowing Tadhg Beirne to make his Six Nations debut. Rob Kearney is also in line to return from injury in place of Jordan Larmour, with Seán O’Brien also likely to be reinstated.
Schmidt will announce his 23-man squad for Cardiff at 2pm on Thursday.
Liam Williams is fit to start against Ireland, despite being forced off against Scotland with a shoulder injury, allowing Warren Gatland to name an unchanged starting XV.
Wales: Liam Williams; George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams; Gareth Anscombe, Gareth Davies; Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis; Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones; Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty. Replacements: Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Aaron Wainwright, Aled Davies, Dan Biggar, Owen Watkin.
Controlling the emotion
Nobody knows what it’s like to travel to Cardiff as an Irish player better than Gordon D’Arcy, and in his column this week he writes that Ireland must avoid getting dragged into an emotional battle at the Millennium Stadium.
“Something magical occurs when the red jersey goes on in the Six Nations, especially against England or Ireland. They rise to the occasion, surge with belief.
“If this Ireland team want to add to established greatness then this, this surge must be snuffed out with ruthlessness we know Ireland possess because we witnessed it in Twickenham last year.”
What’s the betting?
Wales 4-5 Draw 22-1 Ireland 23-20 (Handicap Wales -1 Evs)
How is the weather looking?
Heavy rain is expected for Cardiff on Saturday - although Ireland get to choose whether the roof is open or closed A decision will be made on Thursday.
Who’s on the whistle?
Australia’s Angus Gardner is in charge on Saturday.
Schmidt’s Cardiff voodoo?
There aren’t many things the outgoing Schmidt hasn’t achieved during his time as Ireland coach - but he is yet to win a Six Nations game in Cardiff. Third time lucky?
O Flower of Scotland, when will we see your like again?
Ireland would have won if the roof was left open. . .