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Ireland told be on guard against George North's threat

The Welshman has had success against Ireland in the past.

North will pose problems for Ireland today.
North will pose problems for Ireland today.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

SIMON EASTERBY ADMITS Ireland are worried about Wales’s midfield combination.

The Irish defence coach has been studying Welsh attacking plans all week and has drilled home the importance of reducing the space for North, and his centre partner, Johnny Williams.

“George is comfortable now on the wing or 13,” said Easterby.

“Johnny is a little bit unknown but is respected and regarded as a strong young centre that is finding his way into the international scene but can be a really dynamic runner.

“The two of them pose a really abrasive, dynamic midfield for Wales. 

“We can expect that they’re going to come after us with the ball in the hand.

“They’re going to look to be disruptive in defence with the size they’ve got in that midfield. 

“It poses us lots of questions and I’m sure they will pose us problems. Our challenge is to combat their threats, not just George and Johnny Williams in the centre but if they get it wide to Louis Rees-Zammit and Hallam Amos or Leigh Halfpenny, they have a backline to threaten any side. 

“Our challenge will be making sure we win those physical battles and then, off the back of that, nullify the many threats they’ve got.”

Easterby also made it plain that Ireland have to absorb the lessons of their defeats here in 2015, 2017 and 2019 – when they fell behind early in each game.

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“We’ve often given Wales a bit of a headstart here,” he said.

“On a number of times we’ve done that, most recently in 2019 when they won the Grand Slam, they got ahead of us. 

“Obviously the conditions were slightly different.

“There was a lot of rain and it was hard to chase the game, but we can’t afford to give a side like Wales – with home advantage – the 10,12, 15-point headstart which we have done in the past. 

“It’s about making sure that we win those little battles early on.

“The game isn’t won in the first 20 but it can be difficult to win it if you don’t get on top of things and you give sides the type of start that we have here. 

“That probably goes across the board for all games but in particular against Wales. That will be one of our priorities.”

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Garry Doyle

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