Wales name unchanged side to face Ireland at Principality Stadium
Wales name unchanged side to face Ireland at Principality Stadium
Ireland will be hoping to maintain their 100 per cent record in this year's competition in Cardiff
11 March, 2017, 00:51
He was present the last time they came a championship cropper in Cardiff, Ireland falling 12 penalty points behind in as many minutes two years ago following four breakdown infringements.
Despite back-to-back losses to Scotland and England - Howley has stayed with an unchanged XV for their penultimate game of the tournament.
With its Six Nations title ambitions over, Wales has longer-term concerns to consider.
Ireland surprised Wales by agreeing to close the roof and they were equally caught out when they came out for the warm-up and found themselves wading on a wet surface.
North has scored 28 tries for Wales in 67 Tests and needs a big game, but he would not be alone from a Welsh perspective as they strive to avoid suffering three successive Six Nations defeats for the first time since 2007. Editorial use only. No commercial use. If Wales decide to play the kicking game, as they have done in the last few games, then they are sure to lose if kicks are inconsistent and kicked to risky players in the Ireland back line.
Backs: Leigh Halfpenny; George North; Jonathan Davies; Scott Williams; Liam Williams; Dan Biggar; Rhys Webb.
"We know we need to be more clinical and we need to execute better under pressure and we have been working hard on that during the last few weeks".
"We always say we are fortunate to have the best supporters in the world and we are eager to put in a performance for them under the lights at Principality Stadium on Friday".
It was Ireland who got off the mark first thanks to a Jonny Sexton pen, but North crossed over for the first time soon after to give Wales a valuable lead.
With a quarter of an hour gone, a carry that was notably bullish even coming from from Stander had the Irish in good voice but the penalty it brought came to nothing when Ireland were turned over at the lineout thanks to the intervention of Alun Wyn Jones. Without breaking his stride, North powered down the right wing, cut inside Paddy Jackson - Sexton's temporary replacement - and barged over.
The uncomfortable moments were far from over for Ireland's half-backs though.
The Lions head coach, Warren Gatland, was in the crowd and watched another of his potential squad in New Zealand this summer receive prolonged treatment when the scrum-half Conor Murray hurt his left wrist tackling North.
Clearly favouring shoulder when passing, one of Schmidt's most influential figures was clearly severely limited.
Jackson then kicked Ireland in front just before Sexon returned following a nine-minute absence, but Wales finished the first-half on top and Halfpenny kiched them ahead as Sexton's eventful night continued.
Webb punted deep, chased well and forced Murray into touch just shy of his own goal-line.
Ireland were only a converted try away from victory, but it may as well have been 10: after poor hands wrecked a scrum move, Sexton was charged down by Biggar and Jamie Roberts delivered victory and, very probably, the title to England.
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