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Wales v Ireland and tries that bind Celtic cousins


Ireland's Jamie Heaslip

Ireland's Jamie Heaslip


Ireland's Jamie Heaslip

IF you are lucky enough to be in Cardiff today, and get a chance to speak to Dai, Dewi or Garreth, or indeed any Welshman; ask them about the relationship between Wales and England. Doubtless they will reply: It is one built on trust and understanding, for they don't trust us and we don't understand them.

But what about the tries that bind ourselves and our Celtic cousins? From JPR Williams to the remarkable Leigh Halfpenny? Since 1882, we have met 120 times and, as things stand, Ireland have come second on 65 of them, been victorious 49 times, and finished on equal terms on six occasions. Today, with the prospect of a Grand Slam in reach for us and a Championship in play for them, one can expect the spring air to be thick with skin and hair flying.

Is it any wonder that the men from places with such magical, musical names as Llanfarian, Aberystwyth and Llanfairpwllgwyngyll will lift the roof off the Millennium Stadium exhorting their side to victory.

Both teams are coached by the canniest of Kiwis who have taken the concept of ice in the mind and fire in the heart to a whole new level. Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland have done wonders. But in the end it comes down to the 30 gladiators on the field as to who leaves with bragging rights. The extraordinary Jamie Heaslip has shrugged off three damaged vertebrae to play today. And the Herculean Paul O'Connell marks his 100th cap.

The stage is set for a Homeric encounter, all we need now is to locate a Welsh Achilles heel.

Irish Independent