The 2019 Six Nations Championship has reached its final weekend and the competition has produced a potentially thrilling conclusion, with three teams still theoretically in the hunt for the title. But the key game of the last Round takes place at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, where an undefeated Wales take on the defending champions Ireland in what could be a titanic clash.
Wales versus Ireland Preview and Prediction
So, who should your money be on? Here’s our comprehensive betting preview of this crucial Six Nations decider.
Like many of the rivalries in the Six Nations, that between Wales and Ireland is one of the oldest in the world. Their first ever match was played at Lansdowne Road on January 28, 1882, and ended in a Welsh victory, as did the second and third, played in 1884 and 1887. Ireland’s first win in this fixture came in 1888, the year in which they shared the Home Nations trophy with Wales and Scotland.
Over the years, Wales have had the better of this match-up, winning 68 to Ireland’s 51, with 7 draws and between 1900 and 1922, they dominated it, winning 15 out of 18 encounters. But Ireland have also had their spells of dominance, holding a 10-2 record between 1994 and 2004.
For most of this century though, the fixture has been evenly matched. Two years ago, Wales won 22-9 at the Millennium Stadium, but last year it was Ireland’s turn, as they beat Wales 37-27 at Lansdowne Road en route to their second Grand Slam of the Six Nations era. Interestingly, four of the last nine meetings between these teams have been won by the away side.
Last Ten Fixtures
February 24, 2018 Ireland 37 – 27 Wales Lansdowne Road
March 10, 2017 Wales 22 – 9 Ireland Millennium Stadium
February 7, 2016 Ireland 16 – 16 Wales Lansdowne Road
August 29, 2015 Ireland 10 – 16 Wales Lansdowne Road
August 8, 2015 Wales 21 – 35 Ireland Millennium Stadium
March 14, 2015 Wales 23 – 16 Ireland Millennium Stadium
February 8, 2014 Ireland 26 – 3 Wales Lansdowne Road
February 2, 2013 Wales 23 – 30 Ireland Millennium Stadium
February 5, 2012 Ireland 12 – 23 Wales Lansdowne Road
October 8, 2011 Wales 22 – 10 Ireland Wellington
A nine-game pre-Six Nations winning streak has now been extended to thirteen by a Welsh team that has been resurgent in the last year of Warren Gatland’s tenure as coach. Their autumn victories over South Africa and Australia were positive signs, and they kicked off this year’s Six Nations with hard-fought wins in France and Italy. Against a power-packed English side in Game Three, they showed tremendous resolve in battling back from being behind at half-time to run out as 21-13 victors and they showed the same spirit to see off Scotland 18-13 at Murrayfield last weekend.
Ireland’s Six Nations tournament got off to the worst possible start when they were caught cold by a well-drilled England side in Dublin, and they’ve been playing catch-up ever since. Battling victories in Scotland and Italy showed their determination and in Round Four, they looked more like the team that had won the Grand Slam last year, opening up a 26-0 lead at home to France, but then showed some late sloppiness which allowed the French to score two consolation tries.
View the latest rugby betting odds
There remains a doubt about Wales full-back Liam Williams, who was taken off with a shoulder injury in the Scotland game, but although he hadn’t recovered enough to receive any contact by Tuesday, he had returned to training. But even if Williams isn’t able to take the field, Wales have a more than adequate replacement in Leigh Halfpenny, who is available again after clearing concussion protocols.
Ireland have brought flanker Dan Leavy, who hasn’t yet played in this year’s tournament, back into the squad for the weekend, in place of Josh van der Flier, who came off with a groin injury against France. Fly-half Ross Byrne has been left out of the squad, and Robbie Henshaw is still out, but Rob Kearney, Joey Carbery and Tadhg Beirne have all been training with the full squad earlier in the week and it is hoped that all three will be available on Saturday.
While Wales showed once again that they are the best defensive team in the tournament by weathering an absolute battering from Scotland last weekend, the fact that they seemed to lose their focus having built up a half-time lead will be a concern for Gatland ahead of what will be the last Six Nations meeting between two giants of the modern coaching era.
For Schmidt, the same comments apply as his team dominated against France, only to lose their concentration in the last three minutes. Defeat was never on the cards, but it provoked memories of that opening game defeat to England, in which the visitors were able to impose themselves on the men in green with the physicality of their defence.
That will be the challenge again for Ireland this weekend, and they may struggle to match the home side in what is sure to be a titanic struggle. Wales have shown a level of togetherness and intensity that suggests a Grand Slam team in the making, and they can achieve that feat this weekend.
Back Wales to beat Ireland at 5/6
Please note betting odds quoted are correct at time of publication and are subject to change. View the latest rugby betting odds