Here we go again! The world’s best international rugby competition (in my opinion, anyway) is now only two days away!
Warren Gatland named his Wales team to play Ireland earlier this week. I first heard the team news from one of our regulars in the coffee shop where I work (Arnold is a massive Blues fan too!) My first reaction to the match-day 22 was one that seems to be echoed throughout the media this week – it’s a mix of youth and experience, with a sense of experimentation and of planning for the future.
There are a few big calls. Gareth Anscombe starts at full-back, with no sign of Liam Williams on the bench. I’m not sure about this one. Anscombe looks promising, and I know Williams returned from injury for Scarlets just last weekend. I would have loved to see him involved personally, even as a replacement. Beating Ireland in Dublin could come down to a piece of individual brilliance, and Williams is your man in that situation.
It’s great to see my favourite back-row combination reunited:
6. Sam Warburton
7. Justin Tipuric
8. Taulupe Faletau
This is such a well-balanced back-row, a great combination of strength, dynamism and flair. I remember these three started against England in 2013 and absolutely ran riot. I rate Dan Lydiate highly (he drops to the replacements for this game) but I think Warburton/Tipuric/Faletau is a better attacking option. Perhaps defensive-lynchpin Lydiate will be introduced when it’s time to close out the game.
Rob Evans begins at loosehead prop ahead of Wales’ most capped player, Gethin Jenkins. What a career he’s had, and what a great servant to Welsh rugby. This could be his last Six Nations, and he’ll want to bow out with some silverware. Meanwhile, Evans will undoubtedly want a big performance in order to nail down a regular starting berth.
Ireland in Dublin is a huge game to start the Championship, and the men in green will be ferociously defending their crown with one eye on a third successive Championship title. It’s going to be a huge game. I hope it provides Wales a springboard for great success in a massive year of rugby in 2016.
Fortunately, we also have my mate Ian James who will be in the crowd, and who will be singing and drinking Guiness for Wales! He’s getting the ferry across to Dublin tomorrow. Have a good one Jamas!