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'It's definitely the most inexperienced squad Wales have had for a long time'

By Josh Raisey
Johnny Sexton/ PA

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Ireland and Wales kick off the 2022 Guinness Six Nations this Saturday, as the reigning champions travel to Dublin to take on an Ireland side that are brimming in confidence following a hugely impressive autumn campaign.

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It will be a clash of two fly-half captains, as Ireland’s skipper Jonathan Sexton locks horns with fellow British & Irish Lion Dan Biggar, who will be leading his country for the first time. This is a clash that is greatly anticipated by everyone except referee Jaco Peyper, who will get an earful for 80 minutes.

When, where and how to watch the match
The match will kick-off at 14:15 (UK) on Saturday February 5th at the Aviva Stadium and will be broadcast live on ITV and S4C in the UK, RTÉ in Ireland, Stan Sport in Australia and SuperSport in South Africa.

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Head-to-head
Wales currently lead the head-to-head battle with Ireland since their first contest in 1882, registering 70 wins to Ireland’s 55, with seven draws. But Ireland just shade their opponents over their last ten encounters, winning five with one draw. It is ten years as well since Wales last won a Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium.

Match odds from bet365
bet365 have the handicap on Ireland at +14, with 1/3 odds that they win both halves. There are also 6/1 odds that Wales come out victorious.

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Prediction

Former Wales captain Sam Warburton downplayed Wales’ chances both against Ireland and in the Championship as a whole on BT Sport’s Rugby Tonight this week, citing the injuries in the Wales camp as an area of concern. Then again, he does not rule out the possibility of another surprise triumph like last year.

“I do think it’s probably, and I mean this with the least disrespect to any of the players picked, it’s probably one of the weaker Six Nations squads I’ve seen for a long time because of the lack of leaders,” the two-time Six Nations winner said.

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“But I’ve seen it coming. I thought after the World Cup there would be a big changing of the guard and there hasn’t been a whole lot. Then I thought after the [British & Irish] Lions tour there would be an even bigger changing of the guard and it’s only really been forced through injury because a lot of the guys who are older, you hit 30 years of age if you can play 20 games a year, that’s great. But a lot of these boys are getting injured for big chunks of the season.

“But in a way I think it forces Wales’ hand so they have to pick some younger guys. They’ve had to put faith in [Louis] Rees-Zammit because the likes of George North are not available. They’ve got to give these boys a go. So I think it’s a little bit of a blessing in disguise. Of course you want all your big hitters out for the Six Nations but with a World Cup looming 18 months away.

“But also the priority is the here and now and Wales have got the best squad they possibly can, but there’s going to come a time where there’s going to be a big generation of players from the Welsh squad who are going to move on, and that’s going to happen in the next 24 months maximum. So guys have to get trialled out now, and that’s what we don’t really know. It’s definitely the most inexperienced squad Wales have had for a long time but only time will tell. But as we stand right now, Wales aren’t a title favourite in most people’s eyes. But one red card, as we saw last year, and everything can change. So it will be really interesting to see what happens there.”

*Odds accurate as of 02/02/22.

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