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Dublin: 3°C Monday 12 April 2021


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There’s a storm coming and it’s either going to blow Andy Farrell’s maiden voyage as a head coach off course, or fill his sails – and confidence in the mission – as Ireland head for Twickenham.

Ciara will have her say, but it’s reigning Grand Slam winners and World Cup semi-finalists Wales who will have Ireland battening hatches at the Aviva Stadium today.

Kick-0ff is at 14.15 (Virgin Media) leaving you ample time to tie down your trampolines and make sure the dish isn’t going to move over the 80 minutes ahead.

Here’s the teams for today’s clash. Ireland will kick off with the same XV who began the second half against Scotland.

Keith Earls and Max Deegan are in the squad among the replacements, the Munster veteran was also fit last week but Farrell preferred Conway and Stockdale as his wings.

Leinster back row Deegan will be making his Test debut when he emerges from the bench after hitting a rich vein of form over the Christmas inter-pro.

Wales are missing key men in Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies, but there’s not a whole lot wrong with that midfield pairing as Saracens’ Nick Tompkins joins Hadleigh Parkes. And then there’s the World Cup’s top try-scorer lurking on the left wing.


15. Jordan Larmour
14. Andrew Conway
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Bundee Aki
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Johnny Sexton (captain)
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Rob Herring
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Iain Henderson
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. CJ Stander


16. Ronan Kelleher
17. Dave Kilcoyne
18. Andrew Porter
19. Devin Toner
20. Max Deegan
21. John Cooney
22. Ross Byrne
23. Keith Earls

15. Leigh Halfpenny
14. George North
13. Nick Tompkins
12. Hadleigh Parkes
11. Josh Adams
10. Dan Biggar
9. Tomos Williams

1. Wyn Jones
2. Ken Owens
3. Dillon Lewis
4. Jake Ball
5. Alun Wyn Jones (captain)
6. Aaron Wainwright
7. Justin Tipuric
8. Taulupe Faletau


16. Ryan Elias
17. Rhys Carré
18. Leon Brown
19. Adam Beard
20. Ross Moriarty
21. Gareth Davies
22. Owen Williams
23. Johnny McNicholl

Referee: Romain Poite [France].

News of a late change on the Wales bench: Owen Williams picked up an injury in the warm-up, and so he is replaced by Jarrod Evans.

Both teams have met President Michael D Higgins, and once we’ve had the anthems, it’ll be showtime.

It’s still dry in the Aviva for now, although there’s a bit of a breeze alright.

Who do you fancy?


KICK OFF: We’re up and running as Johnny Sexton gets us underway. Romain Poite is the man in the middle.


1 min – What a start for Ireland and the Aviva is on its feet. Quick ball off the back of a ruck and Ireland move it through Henshaw out to Stockdale. He chips it in behind and Ireland’s chase is good, putting a dawdling Dan Biggar under pressure as he waits for it to go dead. It doesn’t, and he has to carry it back in goal himself, so it’ll be a five-metre scrum to Ireland with less than a minute on the clock.

Johnny Sexton loves to see it.


2 mins – But that’s a disappointing scrum again for Ireland, much the same as last week. Wales penalty.


2 mins – Biggar doesn’t find touch and Ireland have it again. Frantic start.


Ireland already showing greater ambition to play ball in the early minutes here. O’Mahony popping up in midfield as a passing link as they stream across the field.

Larmour has had a look in broken field play too, but Wales standing firm in front of the early Irish bursts.


A loose enough kicking exchange comes as both sides look happy enough to take a bit of a breather. Stockdale pops up on the right, but his chip ahead is on the agricultural side and Wales mark and clear without fuss.


Wales have the edge in the scrun, but Conway does well to clamp his hands around Josh Adams’ ankles when they attack the short side.

Ireland’s line-speed is good to shut down the follow-up, but there is a penalty coming against Conor Murray for not releasing.


Really encouraging signs in Ireland’s attack again. Not one, but two offloads in the one passage of play. First from Sexton after making a cut, then from Henshaw in midfield before Stockdale took it on down the left.

Wales scramble well, but the penalty comes.

Sexton boots it to the corner. A statement.


Wales choke up the Irish maul, leaving Sexton very frustrated at Romain Poite.


Wales’ exits, meanwhile, remain far poorer than the Taulupe Faletau play that earns them the right to do so.

Ireland attack again off a 22 line-out


Superb from Larmour, just as Ireland looked to be slowed up by a solid Welsh defence again, they go short side and the fullback does the rest.

Cutting inside Tompkins he keeps the legs pumping to ensure he isn’t hauled down and lands over the line with four tacklers in his wake.

Sexton’s thudded conversion attempt brings an audible gasp from around the stadium. So it remains 5-0.


CJ Stander picking up where he left off. The Munster man comes up with a big turnover penalty on halfway to keep the screw turning and Sexton kicks Ireland back into attacking territory.


Jake Ball snaffles the ball from James Ryan at the line-out and the red pack slow the pace of the match all the way down before Tom Williams clears his lines.


Again Ireland show a willingness to attack with instant width and Tompkins is struggling to contend with what Aki and Henshaw are bringing in attack.

The latter breaks the line and the former takes the pass and feeds it back to Sexton, who grubbers to the corner.


But there’s the danger of a World Cup semi-finalist. A brilliant Welsh attack is capped by an Alun Wyn Jones offload to Biggar and he slips the scrum-half away under the posts.

Johnny and Romaine’s relationship is coming to the boil as the skipper appeals for another TMO check, but Biggar coolly slots the conversion.

Ireland 5 Wales 7


It’s been a breathless few minutes and I didn’t even get time to mention that Josh Adams has been forced off. So Johnny McNicholl is on the left wing.

Oh my word. As I type, Tomos Williams’ up and down day just took a major pothole. After Conway chipped and chases to the 5 metre line, the 9 is sent the resulting line-out and drops it.

Scrum V Ireland.


TRY! Ireland 10 Wales 7 (Furlong ’31)


The big man comes up with a big score. Furlong bullies over leached by O’Mahony and slams the ball down.

Sexton ain’t missing this one.

Ireland 12 Wales 7


Bim! Andrew Conway bombs into a thumping midfield tackle to rouse the crowd again as Wales push for a bounceback score.

Pivac’s men weren’t deterred, though and string a further five phases together before Tipuric attempts a clever offload in the 22. It’s dropped and Ireland can scrummage and clear their lines.


Sexton opts to run, at first, from his own 22. Draws in a defender and fires a skip pass right to Conway.

The wing sends an excellent clearance down the tramlines. That’s the sort of heads-up decision-making we hoped would come through post-Schmidt.

The line-out is overthrown and Herring comes very close to stealing, but knocks on.


That was a hell of a half of rugby and it ends in a bit of a scrap for good measure. Of course, Pete was in the thick of it, with shirts grappled at arm’s length all over.

The game has been far from an arm-wrestle with three tries on the board, two of them on the back of brilliant skill. Ireland’s from the individual side-stepping spice of Jordan Larmoud. Wales’ from Alun Wyn Jones’ offload.

And it’s all so delicately poised for the second 40. Can Ireland put away a few more chances to reflect their territorial dominance, or will Wales find more ways to strike back.

Wales are back on the pitch close to a minute before Andy Farrell’s men emerge, but we’re all set for the second half.


Wales’ 9, 10 and 13 have now all coughed up poor handling errors, the latter two in quick succession.

Biggar spilled after fielding a high ball and as the visitors tried to scramble right across the halfway line, Tompkins coughs it into the air.


CJ Stander’s storming 2020 continues with another big turnover as Wales attempted to run back a poor missed touch.

Henshaw took a bad blow, initially it appeared to be a body blow, and is off for a HIA. Keith Earls is in.


Biggar is also sent, unwillingly for a HIA and Wales threaten to grow more ragged as the line-out goes awry.

Four phases into the attack, Sexton puts Herring through a gap to bring the line inside 10 metres.

Keith Earls does well on the other side to get a ball away to Larmour, but the red shirts just keep coming to fill the line and force an error.

Faletau penalised for going in from the side, though, and we go again from the line-out.


‘That’s a try, baby,’ roars Rob Herring and a quick TMO check reveals him to be quite correct.

JVDF hit the deck short of the line, but the maul tumbled him over and the flanker dotted down after the spin cycle.

Secton adds the extras and suddenly Ireland have breathing space.

Ireland 19 Wales 7


The bonus point is now in sight for Andy Farrell’s men, but Wales aren’t quite done yet either.

Henderson is caught for a high tackle and Biggar boots play back to the Irish 22.

Dave Kilcoyne is in the game now to give Cian Healy a respite.


A noticable shift up the gears from the visitors, knowing that they must throw everything now if they are to claim points from this clash.

The Poite penalty count keeps ticking up, so Ireland could be seeing a card if they don’t make a clean escape after the next set of phases.


Good attacking position for Pivac’s boys then, 10 metres out on the left side of Ireland’s 22.

They go the short side, where the tackles are solid. Wales go back right of the ruck and the very solid indeed Hadleigh Parkes crashes through O’Mahony and slams the ball down.

Big TMO check… and he’s ruled it a knock-on from the big centre. A very close call, but the crucial frames showed he didn’t quite have control.


And there’s that clean escape we needed. Conor Murray sends a lovely high clearing box kick back to the 10 metre line.


The green maul holds firm after Wales go for a line-out. The swirling wind must be convincing both sets of kickers out of taking on penalties today.

Easterby’s defence refuses to budge and another penalty, and so another talking to for Sexton, comes.


That is a massive scrum penalty win from Dave Kilcoyne.

The roar goes up around the Aviva and the 12-point margin remains in tact.


It’s a new decade, a new era and a whole new style of rugby football from Ireland. They’re playing, folks. They’re really playing.

Murray and Sexton engineer the ball away from the back and Keith Earls delivers an utterly sensational flick out into the path of Larmour before he gets creased.

The fullback passes on to Stockdale, but the move ends with his chip ahead. The innovation is very welcome indeed.


Faz sends the replacements on. Dev, Porter and Ronan Kelleher are in the game with Henderson, Furlong and Rob Herring called ashore.

Huge opportunity for the bench to complete a bonus point win here.


Max Deegan is on for his debut off the bench with Pete making way.

Sexton appears to be trudging off for a HIA. He fist-pumps for the crowd on his way, but Ross Byrne will finish this game off.


Off a central attacking scrum Conor Murray might just have sensed the need to write a few headlines, making a cut himself into the line. But he’s well wrapped up and stripped of the ball.

That winds up being his final play of the match and Cooney runs on for the final seven and a half minutes.


Cooney can’t quite be credited with forcing a knock on from North there off first phase, but he was closing in with Jacob Stockdale.

Either way, the 9 can start a new attack here.

He does, while getting thoroughly trundled by Wainwright. Aki takes the carry on and Ireland are still pressing.


Keith Earls again has a key role to play, unleashing a gorgeous long pass to set Conway blazing a trail to the corner.

Byrne can’t nail the conversion, but Ireland are well and truly up and running under Farrell.


The Fields bellow out around Lansdowne Road as Pivac’s side attempt to run through a last attack.

CJ has picked up a second straight man of the match award, but he’ll see this one out from the sin-bin.


TRY! Ireland 24 Wales 12 (Tipuric ’80)


The late maul is too much for Ireland to withstand, but they got the job done well before that.

Halfpenny adds the conversion to leave 10 points between the sides at the finish.

Thanks for following along with today’s liveblog folks. We certainly had better fare to chat about from the hosts, and a better result to carry into the trip to Twickenham in a fortnight.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell


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