Wales must produce another masterclass in Six Nations against Ireland

Wales endured a testing week with Jake Ball PUNCHING Alun Wyn Jones and Josh Adams being axed after Covid breach… with their backs against the wall yet again, they need another masterclass against Ireland

  • Wales host Ireland in their Six Nations opener on Sunday at Principality Stadium
  • The pressure is on Wayne Pivac and Wales following a dismal run of form
  • Wales have also endured a rollercoaster week in the build-up to Ireland clash
  • Jake Ball punched Alun Wyn Jones in training – a brave call to make by the lock
  • Josh Adams was thrown out of Wales’ Six Nations squad for a Covid breach 

Wales are fizzing this week.

Whatever their form, or the pressure on their coach Wayne Pivac, it feels as though they are setting up for a big performance. They need one against Ireland.

Back at home under the open roof of the Principality Stadium they might not be buoyed on by 72,000 daffodil-hat wearing, pint swilling Welsh fans ravenous for a piece of the Irish, but this is a team ready to tear in.

The pressure is well and truly on Wayne Pivac ahead of Wales’ Six Nations opener with Ireland

It seems they have been tearing into each other too, with Jake Ball clocking Alun Wyn Jones in the face this week – a brave call to make by the lock.

This has been a testy week for Wales. They like those. It started with Josh Adams’ Covid bubble breach; the wing attending a ‘gender reveal’ party to announce he was having a daughter and then finding himself banned for two games after his partner posted all about it on Instagram.

Wales will hope their actions on Sunday are as swift and decisive as Pivac’s decision to suspend his top winger.

There have been countless weeks when Wales have had their backs against the walls and have then delivered. In the 2019 tournament they produced a gritty defensive masterclass against Scotland in the week two regions almost merged.

Later at the World Cup they blitzed Georgia having seen Rob Howley depart days earlier after breaching betting rules.

So with fists flying and bubbles broken, can the Welsh raise themselves for another victory that many do not expect against Andy Farrell’s Ireland?

Certainly for captain Jones, now in tournament No 15 and up to cap 144, there are no excuses.

‘Wayne set his stall out about what the year was about,’ he said talking before his training-ground scuffle.

‘With the 2020 Six Nations we weren’t able to finish it off in its entirety and the disappointing thing was how we started the Autumn Nations Cup.

Alun Wyn Jones was punched by Jake Ball during training ahead of the Six Nations opener

‘We’ve spoken a lot about the opportunity which was given and in patches it came together but the results didn’t follow.

‘We’ve been wary this time around and Wayne has been candid that this is the Six Nations and it’s tournament rugby.

‘We can’t say we didn’t know it was coming or it was organised late because of Covid. We knew it was coming and we’ve prepared that way.

‘We’ve been trying to deliver for a while. It’s very dangerous and easy to turn the game into a numbers game.

‘We realise how close we’ve been in a number of the games we’ve had, particularly in 2020.’

Jones has been spending days in a hyperambic chamber to make sure his knee is right for Sunday.

He was asked if he could hit the ground running having not played since December, and gave a typically punchy response.

‘You tell me,’ he countered.

Ball is not involved in Pivac’s squad for Sunday’s clash at the Principality Stadium

‘You’ve seen me do it before. I’ll leave that up to you and your quill. I’ve been a bit frustrated really because it was a similar period for me post World Cup.

‘This one was just someone falling on me. It’s been a bit more frustrating but I’m relishing the chance to get back into it properly.’

He is part of the most experienced Welsh team ever, with 874 caps in the side.

On the sidelines, and carrying Leigh Halfpenny’s tee, will once again be Neil Jenkins – celebrating his 30th year involved with the Welsh national side.

The former playmaker still cannot help himself throwing up with nerves before each Test.

‘I will probably be heaving a little bit – I can say that, can I? – I will be nervous,’ said the assistant coach.

‘I always am. It’s a big game, a big Test match. I just want Wales to do well, I want Wales to be successful and I want Wales to win.

‘That will never ever change from me. I am a proper Welshman, and I am desperate for our country to do well. I will be nervous tomorrow, and hopefully the boys can do a job.

Josh Adams was involved in a Covid breach for attending a ‘gender reveal’ party to announce he was having a daughter

‘They know what is at stake, they know what it means to pull on that jersey and represent our country.

‘It demands the utmost of you, it demands the highest of standards.

‘The Six Nations doesn’t change for me. It’s a humongous tournament, it’s the biggest one you’re going to play in other than a World Cup and, as I said, there’s hopefully a Lions tour at the end of it.

‘This is the one that it’s all about.

‘We have to be better full stop there is no doubt in that.

‘It’s all on the line, and we need to rock up, do what we can and take the game to Ireland as best we can.’

Whether on or off the field Wales are dialled in. Time now to end another rollercoaster week on a high, or it could be all downhill from here.

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