Belfast Telegraph

Friday 21 November 2014

Gough aims for cloud nine in title decider

Qualified single-engine pilot Ian Gough will be on the proverbial cloud nine if Wales retain their RBS 6 Nations title.

But Gough's aerial challenge is much closer to the ground on Saturday as he prepares for a twin-engine threat posed by Irish second-row giants Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan.

Ospreys lock Gough has had many battles over the seasons - for Wales, the Ospreys and Newport Gwent Dragons - against two of Munster's finest.

It is a distinct possibility that Gough and his Wales second-row colleague Alun-Wyn Jones could link up with the Ireland lineout partnership on this summer's Lions tour to South Africa.

But far more pressing matters await this weekend, with Wales looking to land a second successive Six Nations crown, third Triple Crown in five seasons and end Ireland's Grand Slam dream.

"We've had some good tussles. They are good players - honest, really hard-working, skilful boy," says Gough.

"But it's hugely important for us to end this Six Nations on a high and put a massive performance in, especially up front."

And the lineout contest could have a crucial bearing on where Saturday's silverware ends up.

Wales have lost just four lineouts in four Six Nations games this season, winning 45, and although six Irish lineouts went astray, they have won 53.

Of possible significance though, is one other statistic - Wales have taken three lineouts off opposition throws, but the Irish figure stands at an impressive 11.

"They (Ireland) are the ones that put the most pressure on you in that lineout area," acknowledged Gough.

"But if you are going to judge yourself against someone, then judge yourself against the best people at doing it.

"Ireland know how to win at the moment. They are winning the tight contests, settled by only a few points. It's pretty nervous stuff.”

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