Sunday 17 December 2017

'Fragile' Wales are ripe for the picking, according to Gordon D'Arcy

Wales are coming off back-to-back defeats to England and Scotland
Wales are coming off back-to-back defeats to England and Scotland

Nick Purewal

Ireland can force "fragile" Wales to revert to Warrenball in Friday's RBS 6 Nations clash in Cardiff, according to Gordon D'Arcy.

Former British and Irish Lions centre D'Arcy has called on Ireland to jangle Wales' nerves as Rob Howley's men bid to avoid their worst Six Nations run in 10 years this weekend.

D'Arcy believes Ireland can steal a march in the back-row at the Principality Stadium, and then squeeze Wales into falling back into the old habit of Warren Gatland's famed direct-running gameplan.

Ireland must win in Cardiff to keep their title hopes alive, while Wales are aiming to hit back after consecutive defeats.

"Wales are in a struggle, but in the same breath if they turned around and won a grand slam next year, you wouldn't be surprised," D'Arcy told Press Association Sport.

"You get this with Wales, they can be up and down.

"The big question now is which Wales team turns up on Friday night, how fragile are they and can Ireland underpin that.

"This is a game of who blinks first, who can create opportunities and who can take them, delivering on skills.

"What I would like to see is maybe Ireland putting so much pressure on Wales that they go back to type, that they go back to that carrying type of rugby, to try and beat you up around the corner, and take penalties through Leigh Halfpenny.

"Because I think Ireland will be able to deal with that, and starve people like Liam Williams and Tipuric of the ball.

"If these guys get on the ball and get on the front foot, and Moriarty gets into the game, that may get them back into the game.

"But there is a bit of fragility there and Ireland have to try to expose that."

Former Leinster midfielder D'Arcy hailed the strength of Ireland's blossoming back-row unit of CJ Stander, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip.

The 82-cap former centre believes number eight Heaslip could hand Joe Schmidt's men the edge in Cardiff, as he racks up his 100th Test appearance between Ireland and the Lions.

"Jamie Heaslip's a consummate professional and that's not a throwaway comment," said D'Arcy, speaking on behalf of Accenture.

"He looks after his body as well as he possibly can in order to stay at the top of the game for as long as he possibly can.

"And he's probably reinvented his game two or three times in his career, that's why he's getting 100 caps.

"He's benefited from CJ and Sean being in that back-row.

"We're seeing him in the wider channels again now, and he really enjoys that role.

"And his work-rate as an 80-minute man, he's a great asset to have in your team.

"In the battle of wills, of mentality, he's been in all these places. So there is a good balance in Ireland's back-row.

"I think Ireland probably have the edge and that could be the balance that tips things in Ireland's favour.

"The way Ireland's back-row functions, it could potentially be a little bit better than the Welsh three."

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