Thursday 14 December 2017

Bullish Wales determined to silence roar of Croke Park for second time

Hugh Farrelly

DESPITE a record of just one last-gasp win from three Six Nations outings, Wales are coming to Dublin in confident mood, declaring they are "sure" they can beat Ireland and silence the Croke Park roar this weekend.

Both teams name their starting line-ups today with Ireland coach Declan Kidney expected to stick closely to the side that accounted for England at Twickenham last Saturday week while his Wales counterpart Warren Gatland is set to make several changes to the team that lost to France in Cardiff.

Saturday's match and the Six Nations meeting with Scotland the following weekend are Ireland's last matches in Croke Park before they relocate to the revamped Lansdowne Road and Thomas, part of the side that defeated Ireland at GAA headquarters on the way to the 2008 Grand Slam, says the ground inspires rather than intimidates them.

"I didn't find Croke Park as intimidating as Lansdowne," said Thomas. "We have fond memories of winning at Croke Park. It puts you in a positive frame of mind."

Full-back Lee Byrne is similarly bullish about facing the side that claimed Wales' Grand Slam crown in Cardiff last year.

"We have got nothing to fear. We won out there two years ago and I'm sure we can get a result there again, England could have beaten Ireland last weekend," said Byrne.

Brian O'Driscoll is due to win his 100th cap on Saturday and Byrne, a team-mate of O'Driscoll on the Lions tour, believes Wales can spoil the Ireland captain's party.

"O'Driscoll is a great player and great leader," said Byrne. "He wouldn't want to miss getting his 100th cap because of the knock to his head he took against England, but it's nothing to worry about for us because I'm sure we can get a result out there."

O'Driscoll, full-back Rob Kearney and No 8 Jamie Heaslip are all eligible for selection after recent injury concerns.

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