Wales’ Mission In Ireland Looks Somewhere Between Improbable And Impossible

Ireland v Wales

Wales’ Mission In Ireland Looks Somewhere Between Improbable And Impossible

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By David Williams

It has already been dubbed “Mission Impossible” but Wales captain Dafydd Jenkins insists he would not bother getting on the plane if he thought he could not be a winner in Ireland this weekend.

The statistics alone make intimidating reading for Wales as they journey to Dublin for the third round of the Six Nations on Saturday.

The last three Irish wins over Wales have been by 20+ points and they have won six of the last seven against the team in red.

Ireland have won 38 of their last 40 Test matches on home soil (L2), with only England (2019) and France (2021) winning in Dublin in that spell.

The current run of 17 consecutive home wins is the best in their Test history.

In contrast, Wales have lost nine of their last 10 Six Nations matches, including their last three.

But five of those defeats have come by four points or fewer, including both matches so far this campaign (1 point v Scotland, 2 points v England), so Jenkins insists this mission is do-able.

“It’s a massive challenge going to Ireland, who are probably the No 1 team in the world at the moment, but it’s really exciting to challenge ourselves against the best with no fear and no pressure,” said Jenkins.

“We can 100 per cent cause an upset. If we didn’t think that there would be no point in going there in the first place.

“We have full confidence we can win and do a job, although it is going to be tough.”

Jenkins has already notched one win over an Irish side with Exeter Chiefs against Munster in the Champions Cup this season.

But he concedes that at international level, Ireland have become the team everyone is striving to match in Europe.

”Fair play to Ireland, they are a class outfit and have demonstrated why they are the best team in the world in the last couple of weeks.”

“We just need to go out there, leave everything out there and see what can happen. You don’t like being underdogs, because you work so hard to be the best, but that’s the state we are in.

“We’ve had that underdog tag for quite a while now, but we’re still not winning. We are really chasing that win and there is no pressure on us – we’ve got nothing to lose.”

Jenkins admitted to being impressed with how hard Munster, led by Tadhg Beirne, battled at the breakdown against his club side, Exeter Chiefs, earlier in the season.

That is an area in which Wales know they have to be highly competitive on Saturday.

“They pride themselves on the breakdown both on attack and in defence – it is massive for them, They have some class players for us to match up against,” he added.

“The breakdown has been a big focus this week. We talked about their pack and most of them are world class jackalers, so I’s going to be a challenge, but one we are looking forward to.

“If we give our backline a chance, we feel we can cause them problems out wide, so it is down to the pack to get them the ball.”

Leading the charge in the battle of the breakdown for Wales will be their turnover king Tommy Reffell.

Renowned for putting his head in where it hurts most, the Leicester Tigers back row man has played a starring role to date this season against the Scots and English.

“Tommy is probably one of the best in the world at that and he’s proved that in the last couple of weeks. It’s an honour to play with him,” said Jenkins.

“We’ve all got to step up in that department, but he is leading the way in terms of his performances.

“When you see a player doing special things like he did at Twickenham and against Scotland, it makes you want to raise your game.”

Ireland are bidding to extend their three-year winning run at home to 18 Tests and equal England’s record of 11 successive Six Nations victories.

Their coach, Andy Farrell, has triumphed in 23 of 24 matches on Irish soil during his reign, with a 15-13 loss to France in 2021 the only blemish.

But Farrell insists Ireand are cautious of being told the victory is assured.

“We have full respect in regard to what Wales are going to bring because they’re always unbelievably hard to beat and we expect them to be chomping at the bit,” he said.

“The two performances that they had (against Scotland and England), they could be coming here with two wins and no losses so we know exactly what we’re up against.”

The bookies have written off Wales’ chances of producing a massive shock.

Welsh bookmakers DragonBet have made Wales massive 20/1 underdogs to beat Ireland in what would be the shock of the Six Nations so far.

That’s double the odds Wales were to beat England at Twickenham, where they were priced at 10/1, before losing by just two points.

DragonBet director James Lovell said: “It’s been a really interesting week, which shows the level of public support for this young team and a fair degree of optimism.

“Despite the pre-tournament doom and gloom, and the fact that Wales have started as underdogs in the first three matches, it hasn’t put people off backing them and the support has really taken us by surprise.

“Whether that be heart over head, or faith in the young Gatland team, we’ve had to put our big boy pants on a face some big liabilities in the opening matches.

“Going 10/1 Wales to beat England might have been a mistake in hindsight and I felt like I’d aged 10 years after the match.”

Most bookmakers are giving Wales a 20 to 25 points start at the Aviva Stadium, where they have not won in the tournament since 2012.

Lovell added: “Ireland look a different proposition and this time we’re going even bigger, putting Wales at 20/1 to beat them.

“I think everyone would agree it would be a massive shock if Wales do it but if there were never any sporting shocks there wouldn’t be any bookies left!”

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