THE MEETING OF Ireland and Wales at Lansdowne Road, this afternoon [2:30pm], will throw up a number of intriguing duels.
While Chris Henry will face his sternest test yet against Sam Warburton and Brian O’Driscoll will hope to out-fox Jamie Roberts, in the absence of Jonathan Davies, the meeting of George North and Andrew Trimble will be a box office event.
Trimble has brought his undoubted club form into the Test arena and has been energised by working with an Ireland coach that trusts his talents, Joe Schmidt. North overcame a slow start to his Northampton career, after a stellar Lions summer, and is back to his blitzing, brutish best. He blew hot and cold against Italy last week but showed enough glimpses of his devastating power to worry Irish rugby supporters.
“I think just you’ve got to go low on them to be honest,” says Trimble when asked of his plans to stop the big boys from the valleys. “The likes of Cuthbert and North are the boys being talked about, but Jamie Roberts and Scott Williams. Apart from that, all of them are massive.
“They’re there, excuse the pun, largely because of their size, just to get over the gainline, quick ball. They’re good athletes but they’re good with the ball in hand so I think there’s a lot of strength there.
We looked at the likes of North producing offloads, these guys can play a bit as well. I think we’ve just got to be organised in defence, backing each other up. We’ve to get our shape right in the backfield, just to make sure we close them up from the corners. If you go in half-cooked against Cuthbert or North, you’re going to get bounced.
Trimble believes Warren Gatland showed a lot of confidence in his players by naming their starting XV on Tuesday. The Derry native was delighted to be named for consecutive starts after scoring upon his Test recall last weekend. “For me,” said Trimble, “if I hadn’t have gone over in the corner, I wouldn’t have touched the ball in the whole of the first half [against Scotland] so it would have been difficult to make an impression on the game.”
North takes Izzy Folau for a ride during the Lions Tour last summer. INPHO/Dan Sheridan
The 29-year-old has now accrued 51 caps since his Ireland debut, against Australia, in 2007. It has been two years, however, since he made consecutive starts. “I think I’ve become an expert in things not going as I’d like,” Trimble confessed. “It’s been fairly turbulent through the years but I think that just makes you roll up your sleeves and work hard. I never thought for a second that I wouldn’t get another chance, I just knew that if I kept working hard eventually something would work out. If you get that chance and don’t take it, then it’s your fault.”
He added, “When you’re not involved, the tendency is to think ‘Hopefully I’ll be involved next week, hopefully I’ll make a big impact.’ When you’re not involved, it’s horrible watching in and thinking ‘I’d love to be playing there, I’d love to be involved.’
“You just miss getting to the Shelbourne, you miss the buzz, you miss the bus to the game, you miss everything about a Six Nations weekend and playing for Ireland. You love every minute of that and when you’re not involved, it’s a bitter pill to take. You just bide your time and if you work hard, do a lot of things well and get back in the mix. Fortunately, I’ve got a couple of chances now.”
Wales: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, S Williams, J Roberts, G North; R Priestland, M Phillips: G Jenkins, R Hibbard, A Jones; A Coombs, AW Jones; D Lydiate, S Warburton (capt.), T Faletau.
Replacements: K Owens, P James, R Jones, J Ball, J Tipuric, R Webb, J Hook, L Williams.
Ireland: R Kearney; A Trimble, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, D Kearney; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D Toner, P O’Connell (capt.); P O’Mahony, C Henry, J Heaslip.
Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, M Moore, D Tuohy, T O’Donnell, I Boss, P Jackson, F McFadden.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (Eng)
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