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The new old enemy: 7 of the best Ireland v Wales clashes

Sometimes close, sometimes nowhere near, but in the Six Nations era these games are always intense.

IF THE PAST 15 years have truly been the golden age of Irish Rugby then only Wales are one of the sides who can lay claim to taking the shine off.

Irish fortunes on so many occasions have hinged on the meetings with Wales, a game that sets the tempo for an entire campaign.

With the once inconsistent side from across the Irish Sea eyeing up a third consecutive Championship, this Saturday promises to be another classic to rival these seven in the Six Nations era.

7: Wales 19 – 13 Ireland

2011, and the ROG v Sexton debate is at its height. Having lost by three to France and won by two and three against Italy and Scotland respectively, Ireland still considered themselves in with a shot at the Championship.

As is so often the case, Wales was the tipping point for Ireland. The day out in Cardiff was pretty much according to plan. Until…

YouTube credit: Sixorstix

6: Ireland 36 – 15 Wales

Not a vintage Welsh team, but perhaps the most famous day in the career of Shane Byrne who helped Ireland bounce back from defeat in Paris with two early tries in this week two fixture in 2004.

image©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Brian O’Driscoll also claimed a brace and Ronan O’Gara touched down his own charge-down. A fortnight later, Eddie O’Sullivan would take his team to Twickenham to face the world champions.

5: Wales 22  - 10 Ireland

After topping the group in the 2011 World Cup, Irish confidence was at an all-time high going into the Wellington quarter-finals. An early Shane Williams try and a period of intense pressure that yielded only three Irish points soon dampened that unfamiliar feeling.


©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Keith Earls managed to sneak in a try after half time, but thanks to Jonathan Davies, Mike Phillips and no shortage of chop tackles, it was Wales who progressed to the semi-final with France.

4. Wales 22 – 30 Ireland

If you don’t remember this, then you’ve lost – by far – the best bits of Ireland’s 2013 Six Nations. Some Brian O’Driscoll magic sent Simon Zebo in, some Simon Zebo trickery paved the way for Cian Healy and O’Driscoll’s eye for a gap had Ireland 30 – 3 up after 45 minutes.

It was all downhill from there.

YouTube credit: IrishRugbyTVOfficial

3: Ireland 21 – 23 Wales

A truly thrilling contest marked the opening fixture of the 2012 Six Nations. And even without Brian O’Driscoll in situ and George North trampling over Fergus McFadden, a Tommy Bowe inspired Ireland looked like they would do enough to end Wales’ Grand Slam before it started.


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21 – 15 with 10 minutes remaining and the green line begins to drift.

YouTube credit: VicMackey0

2: Wales 24 – 25 Ireland

The 2003 Six Nations and Ireland are riding high. Scotland, hammered. Italy, hammered. France, beaten. Now Wales in Cardiff. The Welsh were on their way to a wooden spoon, but not without having a right good go at derailing Ireland’s title charge.

Four David Humphreys penalties and two tries from Keith Gleeson were replied to with tries from Martyn Williams, Stephen Jones and Gareth Thomas. In what proved to a thrilling preview to a title decider six years later, O’Gara came off the bench for a drop-goal duel with Jones.

YouTube credit: EllliotJackRussel1

The thing about this game is, the clip above isn’t even the dramatic part. Wales managed to manufacture two more drop-goal opportunities for Jones. He fluffed one, the other came in the 87th minute and was charged down by the tireless Denis Hickie. Lansdowne Road would have its Grand Slam decider.

1. Wales 15 – 17 Ireland

Grand Slam at stake…


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Sean Farrell

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