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Wales aiming to 'come out of the blocks firing' against Ireland, warns new defence coach

‘First and foremost we’ve got to stop the likes of Robbie Henshaw,’ says Byron Hayward.

Byron Hayward: saw Wales hold Italy scoreless last weekend.
Byron Hayward: saw Wales hold Italy scoreless last weekend.
Image: Ben Birchall

NEW WALES DEFENCE coach Byron Hayward has told his side to blitz Ireland out of the game as they go in search of their first win in Dublin since 2012.

Ireland took 82 minutes to break Wales’ defensive resistance during their 25-7 defeat to last year’s Grand Slam winners. Former Scarlets coach Hayward has the unenviable task of replacing Shaun Edwards but achieved something the new France coach has never achieved in the Six Nations by keeping Italy scoreless last weekend.

And the former boxer is confident Wales’ defence can hold firm again as they look to keep alive their hopes of back to back grand slams.

He said: “Everything we do is about linespeed and trying to regain possession and quick as we can.

“We have to start both halves well if we are going to get a result. I’ll be expecting the same defensive linespeed as I do any other game.

“We will be looking to get set and come out of the blocks firing. That’s our philosophy for every game and it won’t change.

“I’ve brought some slight changes. I’ve just given the players clarity over the roles within our system to try and take out the grey areas as much as I can because when things are happening at international level at 100 miles per hour the last thing you want as a player is to have grey areas in the game.

“If you get the process right and we are winning our own set-piece ball and are generating quick ball then that will hopefully result in us scoring points. You can’t start well if you give away piggyback penalties at any stage of the game.”

Wales name their side for Saturday’s clash today with rookie hooker Dewi Lake and up and coming back-row Taine Basham having been called up into the extended squad. Wayne Pivac’s side will be without Saracens full back Liam Williams who is struggling with an ankle injury with Leigh Halfpenny set for an extended run in the side.

But the defending champions welcome back scrum-half Gareth Davies and centre Owen Watkin with Saracens man Nick Tompkins in line to make his first Wales start. Ireland opened their campaign with a stuttering win over Scotland but Hayward has warned Wales not to underestimate Andy Farrell’s side.

He said: “Ireland have some direct powerful runners and if they get go forward then they can get people in behind your defence which makes them very difficult to stop.

“First and foremost we’ve got to stop the likes of Robbie Henshaw in the middle of the park which will allow us to get off the line and pressurise them in the phases ahead. Ireland are prolific at when they get to your 22 they stay there and they squeeze you.

“They are probably the best team in the northern hemisphere at doing that. Keeping our discipline is imperative but we are going to relish the opportunity of when they do come to our 22.

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“We have to muscle up and front up and try not to give any tries away early in our defensive sets. I have been hugely impressed with Nick Tompkins.

“I think Nick is a very good defensive player. He’s come from Saracens where most of their success has been built around their defence.

“Their philosophy and their culture I think when you look at a team from the outside you can see what their culture is like by their defence. It’s about how they act and behave without the ball.

“I don’t think many people have grown up saying they want to be the best tackler or defender in the world but Nick comes from an environment which breeds that defence first attitude.

“If you can play without the ball and you have a desire to get that ball back as soon as possible then attacking becomes a lot easier. Nick is very knowledgeable and has a very good understanding of defence for a young man.”

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