Sunday 18 March 2018

Rising Welsh star Davies wary of 'great tactician' O'Gara

Jonathan Davies, seen here scoring a try against Munster, is expected to face Ireland in Cardiff this weekend
Jonathan Davies, seen here scoring a try against Munster, is expected to face Ireland in Cardiff this weekend
David Kelly

David Kelly

Declan Kidney won't name his team until lunchtime this afternoon but the Welsh are already running scared of Ronan O'Gara.

The Munster out-half has broken Welsh hearts twice in the past decade with last-minute winning drop-goals, the most stunning precipitating Ireland's 2009 Grand Slam success on the last occasion Ireland visited Cardiff.

Jonathan Davies, expected to return from injury to beef up Wales' midfield this weekend, missed his side's narrow win in Italy and watched O'Gara's masterclass against Scotland from his couch.

And Davies is wary of dismissing Ireland's struggles to implement their game plan as the visitors seek to continue a remarkable record, which has seen them lose just once in Cardiff since 1983.

"I watched a bit of their game on Sunday," said the Scarlets star. "O'Gara played 10 and was, as he is, a great tactician, putting them into the right areas.

"They are a very physical team at the breakdown. They compete hard and have got a great backline. They are very strong so it's going to be a tough game, but we are quietly confident about ourselves and know what we need to do.

"Sometimes it just happens to every team, they haven't turned up. A lot of people say it about France, which French team is going to turn up, so it sometimes happens like that, but Ireland are a quality team.

"It shows they are a good team that they still are in touch with teams even though it might be perceived they are not playing that well."

And Davies is mindful of the threat posed by the Irish midfield of Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy as both teams seek a victory that could propel the winner into an unlikely late surge for outright championship success.

"They have got a great understanding, having played together for so many caps," said Davies.

"They are two very good centres and it's going to be a tough ask but hopefully, if I get selected, it's something I will look forward to, playing against them.

"I have got huge respect for them and what they have achieved. But if I am playing, I will be doing the best I can against them. They just seem to know what each other is doing. They almost seem to have that sixth sense to know what the other is doing, where and how to run."

Wales have called up 38-times capped hooker Huw Bennett to provide cover for his regional colleague Richard Hibbard, who picked up a shoulder problem during the Ospreys' 37-6 win over Glasgow Warriors at the weekend.

Hibbard is expected to recover in time to be available for selection for the Millennium Stadium clash, but Bennett has been called in, with fellow hooker and national captain Matthew Rees also taking a limited part in training at the moment.

Ospreys flanker Jonathan Thomas also picked up an injury (dead leg) at the weekend and he will be further assessed on Thursday for his availability to feature against Ireland.

Rees has a slight hamstring problem, which is hampering his preparations, and he joins James Hook (calf), Ryan Jones (calf) and Morgan Stoddart (shoulder) on a list of players who have been managing issues around training during the early part of this week -- although all are also expected to be available.

Adam Jones is not expected to be considered for Thursday's team announcement despite returning to action last weekend.

"Both Matthew Rees and Morgan Stoddart have responded well to extensive treatment," said Wales national performance medical manager Prav Mathema. "We expect both to be available for Ireland."

Irish Independent

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