The final minutes of round one revealed where Ireland and Wales are placed mentally coming into today's Six Nations encounter at Energia Park.
Ireland were unable to sustain a lightning start against Scotland and were forced into a furious rearguard defence of their line. It looked like a case of déjà vu as the last time Ireland were in this perilous position they caved under the pressure, losing 15-13 to a last-minute try by Wales in November.
The way the Irish kept their discipline last Sunday to keep Scotland out (18-14) for the four points suggested they had learned and applied a valuable lesson.
In contrast, Wales launched a late onslaught that failed to produce the breakthrough they needed in the 19-15 loss to Italy at Cardiff Arms Park. Ireland coach Adam Griggs has preached the importance of the set-piece and discipline as two tools that can lead to a quick upturn in the quality of performance.
The ball-carrying ballast of the athletic front row of Lindsay Peat, Cliodhna Moloney and Linda Djougang is not a price worth paying for a suspect scrum.Perhaps the inclusion of Judy Bobbett is designed to strengthen that area, alongside the lineout presence of Aoife McDermott. The disintegration of general discipline last week was a concern, doubling the acceptable number of giveaways to 20 penalties, until they got it together in those frantic final minutes.
Captain Ciara Griffin will drive the critical importance of clean work at the breakdown where you are always likely to find her back-row accomplices Edel McMahon and Anna Caplice. The introduction of Claire Keohane for a first Six Nations start at outhalf is not quite the gamble it appears to be. The 28-year-old is an experienced international, having travelled the world with the Irish Sevens squad for the best part of a decade.
The return of Eimear Considine to full-back and switch of Lauren Delany to right-wing for the unfortunate Aoife Doyle will provide greater experience in the back three. Centre Sene Naoupu won't want to be bounced in the tackle like she was against Scotland, and Michelle Claffey will make the gain line as long as the ball is quick enough.
The Irish have to do more to get it into the hands of Beibhinn Parsons, their most gifted attacker since Alison Miller.
This all starts with those basics of winning possession and using it in the right way to put Wales under pressure and put those runners Considine, Delany and Parsons in space.
Ireland cannot afford to start well, stall and revert into a shell again because Wales should be better than Scotland and will have worked on how to finish strong enough to take the points.
Ireland: E Considine; L Delany, S Naoupu, M Claffey, B Parsons; C Keohane; K Dane; L Peat, C Moloney, L Djougang, A McDermott, J Bobbett, C Griffin (capt), E McMahon, A Caplice. Replacements: V Dabanovich-O'Mahony, L Feely, AM O'Hora, C Cooney, D Wall; N Cronin, L Muldoon, A Doyle.
Wales: K Powell; J Joyce, H Jones, K Lake, L Neumann; R Wilkins, K Bevan; G Pyrs, K Jones, C Hale, N John, G Crabb, A Butchers, M Johnes, S Lillicrap (capt). Replacements: M Kelly, C Hope, R Lewis, G Evans, B Lewis; A Callender, F Lewis, P Randall.
Energia Park, 1.0 (Live on RTE2)
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