Ireland coach Andy Farrell has challenged his team to produce a performance that can mark them out as Six Nations contenders in Cardiff tomorrow.
The squad travelled to the Welsh capital yesterday after Farrell recalled James Lowe, Garry Ringrose, Tadhg Beirne and Josh van der Flier to his starting side, while Tadhg Furlong is back on a strong bench.
Wales coach Wayne Pivac has named the most-capped starting XV in the country’s history (874), led by fit-again Alun Wyn Jones. Dan Lydiate is recalled after a three-year absence.
Farrell wants his team to hit the ground running.
“Starting the competition off well is obviously key. Getting a victory in the Six Nations is key,” he said.
“This is a competition everyone wants to win at the start.
“The main thing for us is about the continuity of our performance, getting all of our bits right at set-piece, defence, attack, counter-attack etc, and making sure that they all come together in the right format.
“Having a proper intent, showing our want to try and win this competition right from the get-go is key.
“Winning, first and foremost, has got to be key but obviously we take pride in our performance as well. That’s got to come hand in hand.”
Farrell says the team’s mood is good as they face up to a tough task.
“It’s very buoyant,” he said.
“I’ve been very impressed with how we hit the ground running from day one when we came into camp.
“There’s a hunger there, there’s a togetherness there, there’s a unity within the squad that’s hungry to do well.
“The lads are really taking ownership of where they are as a group and yeah there’s a lot of togetherness that will stay strong over the next 48 hours and hopefully that will stand us in good stead come kick-off time.”
Tomorrow’s game will be played beneath an open roof at the Principality Stadium. The arena has been converted back to its original use after almost a year in operation as a Covid-19 hospital.
Unlike other venues, organisers will pipe fake crowd noise into the stands to try and make things more normal in the otherwise empty stadium.
Six Nations Premium
When Johnny Sexton was a fresh-faced 16-year-old transition year student, he was so confident in his own ability that he made a bet with an older team-mate that he would win the upcoming Leinster Senior Cup for St Mary's College.
If January showed us something about the most important of the least important things – as Jurgen Klopp might put it – it was James Ryan not putting up with a team-mate getting unnecessarily tied up in a ruck.