Ireland coach Declan Kidney has warned his players of the counter-attacking threat posed by a wounded Welsh XV ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations showdown.
With the likes of Ospreys stars Shane Williams, Lee Byrne and James Hook and Cardiff Blues duo Jamie Roberts in a backline marshalled by fellow British & Irish Lion Stephen Jones, Wales are regarded as one of the most-potent attacking sides in world rugby.
And Kidney, who came up against many of the Wales stars on a regular basis during his time coaching Munster in the Magners League, knows that Ireland will have to be at their best, in both defence and attack, to keep Welsh chances to a minimum.
“We’ll have to tighten up and match them in attack,” said Kidney, who highlighted the need for consistency when naming the same starting XV that beat England last time out.
“Against Wales it can be more dangerous when we’re in possession because if we break down, their counter-attack play is exceptionally good. But we must also retain the ambition to play.
“We’re trying to learn things about ourselves as a team. You have to balance bringing new fellas in with cohesiveness.
“On the balance of play I felt we needed to give the cohesiveness we built up in the last game against England another run.”
Wales travel to Dublin on the back of two defeats in three tournament games so far this year but Kidney insists his side won’t underestimate their opponents.
A stunning comeback against Scotland followed by a near repeat second-half performance against France gave Ireland a timely reminder of exactly what Wales are capable of.
Grand Slam winners in 2008, Wales clinched that year’s Triple Crown with a 16-12 triumph at Croke Park before coming within inches of denying Ireland a clean sweep last season when Stephen Jones’ late penalty dropped just short in Cardiff.
“The thing I really admire about Wales is that they play to the 80th minute,” said Kidney, who has named 21 Magners League players in his matchday 22 for the Dublin clash.
“They did that last year in Cardiff – had that kick gone over we’d have finished the championship on eight points each and we’d have won on points difference.
“Two years earlier they put one over on us at Croke Park, which as a venue doesn’t hold any fear for them."