Saturday, March 13, 2010

Gareth Charles' predictions for Ireland V Scotland

A fortnight ago before the Wales V France game I said a familiar pattern was emerging to Wales' RBS Six Nations games in 2010. Well nothing much has changed has it?

So what can we expect this time round? Well, to celebrate Brian O'Driscoll's 100th cap for Ireland, the penultimate game in Croke Park before returning to a renovated Lansdowne Road, and with Ireland still in the hunt for a Triple Crown, what about...?
Wales give a parting gift of a 20-point start. Then Shane Williams will begin to shine in the second half and Wales will run in four unanswered tries to end real party-poopers! Wales have become almost predictable in their unpredictability.
Certainly, when the game breaks up late on and Wales' superior fitness levels come through, they are an extremely difficult team to defend against.
But what of the opening hour? Once again France were more than happy to stay out of rucks and mauls, stay off tackles, fan wide and pick off interceptions, leaving Wales too great a mountain to climb as happened in Twickenham and as almost happened against Scotland.
And if France were happy to sit back and let Wales force the pace, what price Ireland? It'll be a case of: "come on, show us what you've got".
Ireland were happy enough to let England have as much possession as they liked, especially with England's recycling seemingly organized by a sloth on tranquilisers!
There were 99 tackles made by Ireland, just one missed, but crucially three clear-cut chances created three tries scored - the kind of clinical finishing Wales would currently die for.
At Croke Park on Saturday there will be two extremely talented back lines but the confidence that comes from finishing and winning could be a telling factor.
Up front Wales are hoping the return of hooker Matthew Rees will stabilise the set piece, which unexpectedly creaked a little against France, and provide a launch-pad for another returnee, number eight Gareth Delve, to show the dynamism that has typified his performances for Gloucester this season.
Delve needs to be prominent to keep quiet possibly Ireland's most potent force - an outstanding back-row trio of Stephen Ferris, Jamie Heaslip and David Wallace who dovetail together so superbly.
Unfortunately statistics show that if Scotland beat England at Murrayfield (unlikely but not impossible) Wales, who went into the first Saturday of the Six Nations hoping for a Grand Slam, could be going into the last Saturday fighting to avoid a Wooden Spoon.
When you're inches away from greatness but inches away from gloom, Croke Park is not exactly the ideal place to be going.

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