Wales out to unsettle ‘world-class’ Ireland – Warren Gatland

By Sports Desk February 23, 2024

Warren Gatland wants Wales to show no fear and embrace the challenge when they tackle “world-class” Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

Wales have been largely written off – they are a 14-1 chance with some bookmakers – on the back of successive defeats against Scotland and England, while their last Six Nations win in Ireland was 12 years ago.

Ireland have lost just twice in their last 40 home Tests, need one more victory to equal England’s Six Nations record of 11 successive wins and are on a seemingly unstoppable march towards achieving historic back-to-back Grand Slams.

“We know how good a side they are,” Wales head coach Gatland said. “They are a settled team. They are world-class.

“We have got to be smart and not allow them to play the game on their terms. That is when they are incredibly dangerous.

“Just one moment from them can change the momentum of the game. They have got some key individuals, but we’ve got to try and put them under pressure to unsettle them.

“There has been a lot said about us being underdogs, but that is not a motivation for us. The motivation is the pressure we are putting on ourselves to get better from game one and two.

“We have spoken all week about having no fear.

“We have reflected, and (Wales captain) Dafydd Jenkins has spoken about it, we probably went into that first game with a little bit too much respect for Scotland in that first half, and that was the message at half-time. I think we saw an improvement at Twickenham.

“It is going to be a huge challenge for us but you have got to embrace that, you have got to be excited about that.

“I have spoken to the players about stepping up in big moments and being the one who wants to be part of a big moment and not having any fear about that, not going into your shell.”

Gatland has made a solitary change from the England loss, with fit-again Sam Costelow returning at fly-half instead of Ioan Lloyd.

There are further opportunities for newcomers Cameron Winnett and Alex Mann, while Cardiff back-row forward Mackenzie Martin is set for his Test debut off the bench.

The 20-year-old has played only nine games of professional rugby, and he will become the 1,200th Wales men’s senior international if he features against Ireland.

Gatland added: “We feel we are building for the future, and we have got some really talented young players at the moment who need time.

“I think the players are aware we have a huge amount of growth in us and where we can be in the next 12 months or so.

“We can’t hide away from that fact of how important it is to win (in) international rugby, because that is the expectation.

“When you put that jersey on, everyone expects you to go out there to perform and win.”

And Wales skipper Jenkins said: “We just need to go out there, leave everything out there and see what can happen.

“If we didn’t think that (Wales can win) there would be no point in going there in the first place. We have full confidence we can win and do a job, although it is going to be tough.”

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