Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt is expecting another tight battle when his side meets Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday afternoon.
Matches between these two teams are rarely won by big margins. In fact, a two converted try margin of victory hasn’t been achieved since Ireland beat Wales 26-3 in Dublin in the 2014 edition of the championship.
2015: Wales 23-16 Ireland
2016: Ireland 16-16 Wales
2017: Wales 22-9 Ireland
2018: Ireland 37-27 Wales
Heading into Saturday afternoon’s clash, Schmidt was asked about the experiences of their two most recent losses to Wales in Cardiff and how that could impact the mindset of the current squad.
“They’re different teams, different times and in both of them, they’re incredibly fine margins,” Schmidt said as he recalled previous encounters with Warren Gatland’s side.
“We played both times [2015 & 2017], I felt we played relatively well. We certainly had more linebreaks, we had more opportunities but they’re very hard to capitalise on. They are incredibly good at slowing your ball down once you get into the danger zone.”
“You saw last week against Scotland, Scotland had a plethora of opportunities but only converted one try. It is difficult to score against them, particularly at home. Obviously last year we managed to score five tries against them, so it’s not a case of not being capable of doing it but they do grow another leg in the Principality Stadium. That’s going to be a challenge for us.”
In particular, Schmidt reflects on the 2017 clash and how a Robbie Henshaw infringement changed the course of the game.
“If you look at how fine the margins were, we’re down by six points, the lineout maul looks like it’s going over the line anyway. Robbie Henshaw joins it in front of the ball, Wayne Barnes correctly penalises him although I haven’t seen that call made again since. Suddenly what could have been a one-point lead and the pressure going back on them, remained a six-point lead for them and them being able to clear their lines.”
For Schmidt, he will be emphasising accuracy to his players, something which they have struggled with in an attacking sense throughout the competition thus far.
“You just try to be as accurate as you can be. That was a little bit of an inaccuracy that was justifiably punished but we’ve got to make sure we eradicate that as best we can. I think we’re going there to play because you can’t afford to go into your shell.
“I think they’ll have a similar attitude to a degree. I think they will certainly play a territorial game, it’s the way they’ve tried to manage the Six Nations so far. They will try to make sure that we have to work our way out of our half more often than not.”