Wales vs Ireland LIVE rugby: Latest build-up to Six Nations 2023 opener in Cardiff

Six Nations: Wales will ‘relish’ being underdogs in opener against Ireland, Gatland says

Wales host Ireland in a mouthwatering 2023 Six Nations opener in Cardiff this afternoon.

The Principality Stadium will be rocking as Wales look to quickly banish a nightmare 2022, which saw Wayne Pivac sacked after losses to Georgia and Italy.

The Irish will be bullish though, their sensational form under Andy Farrell has them primed for a historic year with home games to come in the Six Nations against France and England as we count down to the World Cup in September.

“Last week, there was only one topic of discussion and that was understandable,” Gatland said, referencing the scandal engulfing the Welsh Rugby Union following allegations of sexism, bullying and racism made in a scathing TV documentary. “This week, the message to the players is we have a test match to focus on. Rugby has been the only talking point and the players have been great in terms of that. It has been a bit of a challenge, but our whole focus is on Saturday.”

Follow for live updates and build-up to a huge day of rugby:


Can Wales slow Irish ball?

It’s a mild surprise to not see Christ Tshiunza among the Welsh 23 given how Warren Gatland has effused about the young Exeter back five forward in the last couple of weeks, but the back row remains a position of real strength for Wales. In Justin Tipuric, Jac Morgan and Tommy Reffell, Gatland can call upon a genuinely top class triumvirate of breakdown troublers, who will be tasked with stalling the rapid ball that allows Ireland to imprint those oh-so-pretty patterns.

Ireland’s accuracy in contact is such that it is difficult to stymie the championship favourites, but it might be a must if Wales are to win today. That late fitness blow for Ireland might help: Conor Murray’s service doesn’t tend to be quite as expeditious as that of Jamison Gibson Park.

Logically, the home side will kick early and often to try and pin their visitors back, allowing their fetchers to get to work in advanced territory and earn opportunities to build from the tee – but Warren Gatland (an expert short-term schemer) has talked this up as a “free hit” for his side, so we’ll see what he has up his sleeve.

Harry Latham-Coyle4 February 2023 13:36


Six Nations 2023: Wales vs Ireland





Jack Rathborn4 February 2023 13:34


Bealham’s big afternoon

Such is the strength of the bind that Tadhg Furlong has had on the Irish tighthead shirt in the last few years, starting opportunities have been hard to come by for Finlay Bealham. The Connacht prop has won 23 of his 27 international caps off the bench, but gets a go from the start today in what is otherwise Ireland’s first-choice group of forwards.

Perhaps as a hint that Furlong’s injuries are slightly more concerning than Andy Farrell is letting on, Ireland have called up Munster’s Roman Salanoa as cover, but the head coach seemed oddly excited to have lost one of his key cogs, and is sure that Bealham is ready to take his opportunity.

“Finlay deserves it,” Farrell said. “He’s been playing good rugby for a good while now, but coming back from the Autumn, or any camp he’s been in with us, he’s had that trust.

“He’s a massive personality within our squad, he’s very popular, but coming out of the Autumn and how that translates, going back to Connacht and his performances since then has been top drawer.”

Harry Latham-Coyle4 February 2023 13:33


Crucial battles in midfield

It’s rather lovely to see Staurt McCloskey get a long-awaited second Six Nations appearance since making his Ireland debut in the competition seven years ago The Ulster centre has worked hard on his game and offers so much as a carrier, distributor and creator, and his starting spot ahead of Bundee Aki is evidence of how highly Andy Farrell values the 30-year old entering a World Cup year.

His direct opposition today is Joe Hawkins, who captained the Welsh U20s so well last summer and has so much to offer. Warren Gatland has traditionally preferred gainline winners at inside centre but was very, very impressed by Hawkins’ autumn debut against Australia, and spoke this week of needing to finding “other ways” to build an effective attacking structure.

“This is a new team with players with different skills and different strengths, and he brings something that is a little bit different,” said Gatland of Hawkins. “He’s a lovely footballer and I wanted to give him the reassurance and confidence after the Australia performance to start again.”

Harry Latham-Coyle4 February 2023 13:28


Team News – Ireland

Such is the groove that Ireland are in that you could virtually have picked Andy Farrell’s team to open the Six Nations at the end of November – save for injuries, of course, and there’s late bad news for the Ireland boss. Jamison Gibson-Park has been ruled out of the Six Nations opener, with Conor Murray into the starting side and Craig Casey a late call up on to the bench, while Cian Healy is another gameday scratch; Dave Kilcoyne will wear shirt number 17.

That are two other major absentees from a starting fifteen with which we are by now, largely, familiar: Robbie Henshaw has a wrist injury while Tadhg Furlong needs another week to overcome a couple of lower leg issues. A stricken Furlong grants Finlay Bealham a rare start on the tighthead, while Stuart McCloskey is the chosen midfield biffer ahead of Bundee Aki, who makes the bench.

Ireland XV: A Porter, D Sheehan, F Bealham; T Beirne, J Ryan; P O’Mahony, J van der Flier, C Doris; C Murray, J Sexton (capt.); J Lowe, S McCloskey, G Ringrose, M Hansen; H Keenan.

Replacements: R Herring, D Kilcoyne, T O’Toole, I Henderson, J Conan; C Casey, R Byrne, B Aki.

Harry Latham-Coyle4 February 2023 13:25


Team News – Wales

The first team of the second Gatland era looks remarkably like one that might have been selected during his previous stint in charge. The old guard, largely, remain, though another frustrating injury for Leigh Halfpenny means he is scratched from the team named on Tuesday.

There are a handful of newer faces. Joe Hawkins makes his Six Natiosn debut at inside centre and offers the promise of a second skilful midfield distributer, while Rio Dyer continues to build on his encouraging early days in international rugby on the wing. Jac Morgan and Justin Tipuric, two of three specialist sevens in the matchday 23, have been in outstanding form for the Ospreys and will be key in a crucial battle on the floor.There’s a new skipper, too, with Ken Owens appointed captain ahead of this campaign

Wales XV: G Thomas, K Owens (capt.), T Francis; A Beard, AW Jones; J Morgan, J Tipuric, T Faletau; T Williams, D Biggar; R Dyer, J Hawkins, G North, J Adams; L Williams.

Replacements: S Baldwin, R Carre, D Lewis, D Jenkins, T Reffell; R Webb, O Williams, A Cuthbert.

Harry Latham-Coyle4 February 2023 13:21


Who will win the Six Nations? The big talking points ahead of the 2023 Championship

The Six Nations offers a final chance to see Europe’s major contenders in full throttle before attention switches to the World Cup. Summer warm-up games will allow coaches to make final selection touches, but for serious competitive action, this season’s tournament has extra spice. It will be a major surprise if Ireland or France do not head to the World Cup with a Six Nations title in the locker, although both will have pressures, given that Ireland have never progressed beyond the tournament’s quarter-final phase and France face huge home nation expectation. Time is not on the side of Borthwick and Gatland, given their recent appointments, but both will oversee hugely-competitive squads, while it could be Gregor Townsend’s last Six Nations campaign as Scotland head coach, given speculation that he might be heading to new pastures later this year.

Wales’ Liam Williams during a training session at the Vale Resort


Jack Rathborn4 February 2023 13:19


Who will win the Six Nations? The big talking points ahead of the 2023 Championship

Exciting prospects to emerge?

The Six Nations is a competition usually for the tried and tested, given its high stakes, but there is also room for new faces to shine. This season’s tournament should be no exception, with England, Ireland and Wales possibly leading the way. London Irish wing and England hopeful Ollie Hassell-Collins is among the Gallagher Premiership’s most consistent performers, showcasing blistering pace and exceptional try-scoring ability, while uncapped Ireland centre Jamie Osborne continued his rapid rise with a man-of-the-match display in Leinster’s recent Heineken Champions Cup rout of Gloucester, and Wales possess two of British rugby’s most promising prospects in Exeter forwards Dafydd Jenkins and Christ Tshiunza.

Leinster’s Jamie Osborne is the only uncapped player in Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations squad

(PA Wire)

Jack Rathborn4 February 2023 13:11


Who will win the Six Nations? The big talking points ahead of the 2023 Championship

Warren Gatland’s Midas touch

When Wales beat South Africa in Pretoria last summer, the odds on Gatland returning as head coach less than six months later would have been greater than 100-1 chance Foinavon winning the 1967 Grand National. But the New Zealander is back for a second stint in the job, having seen Wales win four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and reach two World Cup semi-finals when he was last at the helm between 2008 and 2019. Home defeats against Italy and Georgia underpinned Wayne Pivac’s departure less than a year out from the World Cup, so Gatland has little time to try and turn things around. If anyone can, though, then it is him.

Warren Gatland, who returns for a second stint as the Wales head coach

(Getty Images)

Jack Rathborn4 February 2023 13:03


Who will win the Six Nations? The big talking points ahead of the 2023 Championship

Can Steve Borthwick recharge England?

The Eddie Jones era ended in December after a miserable year when England won just five games, with the Rugby Football Union turning to former national team captain Steve Borthwick as his head coach successor. Borthwick’s coaching credentials are impressive, being highlighted by him transforming Leicester from Gallagher Premiership strugglers to champions in two years. A strong assistant coaching team features the likes of Kevin Sinfield and Nick Evans, and there is no doubt that the 43-year-old Cumbrian could make an immediate impact as England boss. Home games against Scotland and Italy should mean a smooth start before trips to Cardiff and Dublin sandwich a Twickenham appointment with France.


Jack Rathborn4 February 2023 12:54

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