Kick-off: 1415, 04/02/2023
Stadium: Principality Stadium
Ireland were backed for outright glory in our early Six Nations predictions and can come through a tricky opening test when visiting Wales.
The hosts are hoping the return of Warren Gatland can rejuvenate them but this looks a daunting task on last year’s poor form.
We’re going with 13/10 for an away win by 1-12 points as our first Wales vs Ireland prediction.
A miserable run of results under Wayne Pivac in 2022 saw Wales win just three of their 12 Test matches.
They lost to perennial basement dwellers Italy on home turf when finishing fourth in this competition and also went down to Georgia here in the autumn.
Off-field issues have affected preparations for this year’s tournament, with allegations of a “toxic culture” at the WRU being aired in a television documentary.
Gatland insists the attention will now turn to matters on the pitch, though, and he declared: “I think all the Welsh like to be underdogs.”
The Kiwi’s previous reign between 2008 and 2019 yielded four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and two World Cup semi-finals.
Looking ahead to this second coming, he said: “We know how good a team they are. You don’t become the number one team in the world without consistency.
“We realise what a challenge that will be and they have the continuity of being unbeaten in the autumn as well and the confidence that brings.
“But the underdog tag is something I’ve found in the past the Welsh boys tend to relish. They like people writing them off, as it tends to motivate them.
“I am confident we will give a good account of ourselves on Saturday and give a good performance.”
Gatland has selected six Ospreys forwards and turned to experience, including full-back Leigh Halfpenny, who will make his first Wales start for 19 months.
The early exchanges could be tight, so Wales vs Ireland odds.
Ireland will arrive in Cardiff as the world’s top-ranked team following a memorable year when they beat New Zealand twice, South Africa and Australia.
But they have lost their last four Six Nations games in the Welsh capital since defeating Wales 10 years ago, so nobody is taking anything for granted.
The visitors showed great spirit when going down 21-16 here in their opening match of the 2021 competition following Peter O’Mahony’s early red card.
Leinster full-back Hugo Keenan told the Irish Mirror: “I think people who were part of that squad definitely use it as an extra motivation to bring into this Six Nations, as that extra bit of fuel.”
He added: “It’s a big challenge, isn’t it? It’s going to be a bit different from the last time, an empty stadium there.
“To go and compete in the Six Nations, if we’re talking about winning the championship and going to Wales and beating them, we’re going to have to be a lot better than in the autumn.”
In-form Ireland won nine of 11 Tests in 2022 but were far from convincing in beating Fiji and Australia in November after beginning the autumn by toppling world champions South Africa.
Head coach Andy Farrell will now revert to a settled starting line-up, though, as he seeks to go one better than when second to France in this event 12 months ago.
We reckon 4/1 for the visitors to prevail by 6-10 points is another pick worth adding to our Wales vs Ireland betting tips.
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