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Ieuan Evans' column

Brian O'Driscoll of Ireland wearing a Wales shirt looks dejected after their defeat to Wales in Cardiff 2005
Brian O'Driscoll hopes to look happier after Saturday's visit to Cardiff

Ieuan Evans
By Ieuan Evans
Former Wales captain and BBC pundit

Ireland will arrive in Wales for Saturday's Six Nations Championship shootout with two crucial ingredients: confidence and momentum.

The Irish, who have lost just once in Cardiff in 11 visits, are again a win away from their first clean-sweep since 1948 - but I think it will be another case of Grand Slam heartbreak for Ireland.

Should Wales perform at their best, Warren Gatland's men will be too much for the Irish at The Millennium Stadium.

But beating Ireland by 13 points to scoop the Championship crown will be a tough challenge for the Welsh who have not been at their best in this Six Nations.

Stephen Jones takes on Ronan O'Gara
There are some intriguing sub-plots in this Six Nations showdown as it is the last international chance for players to show their Lions ambitions and put their name forward

Wales got away with victories against England and Italy and must show a considerable improvement to beat a confident Ireland.

Yet Gatland's team have shown great mettle and a ruthless side by playing badly and ugly yet still beating both the English and the Azzurri - something that hasn't always happened when Wales have endured a bad day at the office.

Ireland have been the Six Nations nearly men of the last decade or so, finishing runners-up in five of the last nine seasons.

They have kept away from the Grand Slam talk until now as it is staring them in the face, so it will be interesting to see if they can cope with the pressure.

Ireland's gaffer Declan Kidney, the hugely successful double Heineken Cup-winning coach of Munster, could be the difference this season though.

His man-management skills and his calming influence could be the key for Ireland as he looks at rugby in a very simplistic way.

Kidney is similar to Gatland in that regard. The rival coaches have very different personalities but they both have a simple approach to rugby and that clarity is good for players and bodes well for success.

There are some intriguing sub-plots in this Six Nations showdown as it is the last international chance for players to show their British Lions ambitions and put their name forward.

Wales and Ireland both have some fantastic players and will make up a good chunk of Lions Test team against South Africa in the summer.

The midfield battle between the centres is interesting as is the outside-half shootout between Stephen Jones of Wales and Ireland's Ronan O'Gara.

Declan Kidney
Declan Kidney's man-management skills and calming influence could be the key for Ireland as he looks at rugby in a very simplistic way

Add Rob Kearney versus Lee Byrne, Martyn Williams against David Wallace and Alun Wyn Jones going head-to-head with Paul O'Connell, plus many more, and you have all the ingredients for an epic rugby game in Cardiff on Saturday.

Wales, though, would have expected a few more points against Italy but 13 points is not an unassailable points deficit, although it will be tough against a determined Irish side.

Wales must improve, though, to beat an Ireland side with self-belief and the Welsh must stop trying to force the issue deep in their own territory.

Their kicking game has tailed off badly since last year's Grand Slam success so Gatland's men have been trying to force passes rather than going through the phases.

Wales usually play a very structured game but they have been going off script lately and getting sloppy. So they must step it up if they want to end this campaign with some silverware.

I didn't expect another Welsh all-conquering campaign as back-to-back Grand Slams are notoriously hard to achieve.

There was a little bit of disappointment when Wales lost to France in Paris and this year's Grand Slam dream was shattered but, believe me, winning a Triple Crown and possibly a Six Nations title would be a great achievement.

The key for Wales has always been sustained success and beating Ireland and winning a Triple Crown is still an achievement as it is silverware in successive seasons.

Wales' problem over the decades has been feast and famine when it comes to silverware so to add a Triple Crown trophy or possibly a Six Nations Champions to last year's Grand Slam, would be superb.

Ieuan Evans was speaking to BBC Sport Wales' Peter Shuttleworth



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see also
Henson in for Six Nations decider
17 Mar 09 |  Welsh
Lions Watch
06 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
Coming up next on Scrum V...
27 Oct 08 |  Welsh


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