'You can't make a great player have a poor game': Wales wary of 'astute' Murray and Sexton

“They are two outstanding players who we have to be really on our guard against.”

Robbie Henshaw lifts Sexton the Redeemer at training in Maynooth today..
Robbie Henshaw lifts Sexton the Redeemer at training in Maynooth today..

WALES DEFENCE COACH Shaun Edwards expects his team to have their hands full when Ireland visit Cardiff for Friday night’s crucial Six Nations meeting.

And, having seen Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton re-form their partnership to great effect against France last time out, Edwards will hope to prevent the Irish players having an ‘outstanding’ game.

“I have a lot of time for Johnny Sexton,” Edwards said today when asked about the incumbent Lions 10.

“He has been one of the greatest fly-halves of the last 10 years, there is no doubt about it, and he still is. I’ve got huge respect for him and Conor Murray, two world-class players who are used to playing together, which is very important. We are fully aware of the threat Johnny brings.

“In recent outings against Ireland we’ve done okay against them, but we know that each game brings a different challenge.

“Conor is very astute, particularly near the try-line. He throws a lot of dummies, tries to go himself and scores a lot of tries, and Johnny orchestrates things for the backs.

Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“They are two outstanding players who we have to be really on our guard against.

You are never going to make a great player have a poor game, you just don’t want them to have an outstanding game.”

2014 and 2015 champions Ireland need a win to bring the Championship to a final day decider against England, but the side coached by Rob Howley will be a formidable opponent despite losing their last two outings.  And Edwards quickly rubbished any suggestion that Wales might take their foot off the pedal with no silverware to play for.

“We have had some great tussles with them (Ireland) over the years, so we will be picking our best team to win this game. It is a Test match against Ireland, so bring it on.

“They came out of the traps slow against Scotland and paid the price. Since then, they have scored a lot of points, averaging 34 points a game, and scored 41 points to beat the All Blacks back in the autumn.

France fans Source: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

“I think they are the highest points scorers in the competition at the moment, so defensively we have certainly got our hands full.

“They are the kind of team who keep the ball for very long periods. It is very difficult to get the ball back off Ireland. They are relentless with their attack. Obviously, they have got two excellent half-backs guiding them around the park.”

Edwards’ defence also struggled to cope with the energetic Scots in Murrayfield. However, the English coach hopes that the individual errors seen that day will be ironed out by Friday evening.

“They were individual mistakes because they (players) didn’t do what they practised in the build-up to the game. They decided to do what they wanted and not what the rest of their team-mates expected them to do.

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“When it comes to conceding tries, we’ve conceded tries on our edge, usually our right edge, and one on the left side (against Scotland).”

Star wing George North was off form for the defeat in Edinburgh in round three, but Edwards appeared to suggest that a player of his calibre will get the benefit of a doubt and be retained in the starting line-up.

“He wasn’t at his best against Scotland, but I think great players, who have done great things for you in the past, sometimes deserve a warning.

“If he is selected, I expect George to be certainly on his mettle.”

Source: The42 Rugby Show/SoundCloud

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