'We have to put Conor and his kicking game under pressure'

Wales are intent on attacking Ireland’s strengths during Saturday’s pivotal Six Nations clash.

WALES HEAD COACH Warren Gatland will demand that his side attack Ireland’s strengths during what will be the Kiwi’s 100th match in charge.

Warren Gatland during the post match press conference Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Gatland takes his side to Dublin this weekend on the back of swallowing the bitter pill of a contentious loss to England in Twickenham. A win at the Aviva Stadium would keep Championship hopes alive for Wales, while landing a hammer blow to yet another Irish Grand Slam bid.

Providing a boost to that end is the return of Liam Williams, Leigh Halfpenny and Dan Biggar to the back-line. Along with Lions pedigree, what the three have in common is a terrific aerial ability, and Gatland hopes to see them put it to use under high balls from Conor Murray, Jonathan Sexton or Rob Kearney on Saturday.

“We have got to put Conor and his kicking game under pressure,” Gatland said after naming his team (Joe Schmidt will wait until Thursday to unveil his line-up).

Conor Murray Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“We’ve got to attack them. We have had some pretty good success not allowing Johnny (Sexton) too much time and space on the ball. Our line-speed defensively has got to be good.

We have to be prepared to be pretty physical against them. We have got to be physical against them up-front and stop the running power of someone like CJ Stander, and stop allowing Murray and Sexton to dominate the game. If we can do that, we have got a chance.

“They are comfortable playing through lots of phases, they’ve got an excellent kicking game, their nine and 10 combination is probably one of the best in world rugby. We’ve got a job to do to try and shut them down.”

Conor Murray is selected as head coach Warren Gatland looks on Gatland announcing Murray in his 2013 Lions squad. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

While Gatland happily hailed the Ireland and Lions half-back pairing, he was much more measured when asked if Ireland ought to be rated as the best team in the Championship.

“No. England are a tough outfit,” said the former Ireland and Connacht coach.

“Ireland ground out a win in France. You’ve got to keep your discipline against Ireland. Our discipline has been excellent in the first two games.

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He adds: “We’ve got to make sure we don’t give Ireland an opportunity to kick to the sidelines by giving away penalties and execute their driving line-out, which is pretty effective, and allow Johnny Sexton to keep their scoreboard ticking over with three points.

“That’s what they do. They play through lots of phases, but we’ve conceded the least points in the competition so far.

“Andy Farrell won’t be happy with Ireland conceding 19 points against Italy. Two or three of Ireland’s tries against Italy were from turnover situations and an interception.

“We’ve got to make sure we don’t get caught up in that, keep our patience defensively and our discipline has to be good. They are a quality side that are hard to break down.”

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