Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Dan Lydiate relishes Wales' World Cup warm-up against Ireland

Wales flanker Dan Lydiate believes that Saturday's Dublin appointment with reigning RBS 6 Nations champions Ireland is "brilliant preparation" for the World Cup.

The Aviva Stadium warm-up encounter will see Wales boss Warren Gatland and his Ireland counterpart Joe Schmidt run the rule over their World Cup contenders for a final time before both squads are announced next week.

While squad vacancies are probably at a premium in either squad, Saturday's Test should help clarify any 50-50 calls.

And unlike when the countries met in Cardiff three weeks ago, both teams have a powerful look to them. Wales parade nine starting XV survivors from last season's titanic Six Nations victory over Ireland in Cardiff, while Schmidt includes eight.

"It is the first hit-out for a lot of us, but at the end of the day it's an international," Lydiate said.

"We are excited about going out there, but it's going to be a big challenge.

"We saw how well-drilled Ireland were in the first match earlier this month, and they've had a couple more weeks to prepare, so we are expecting a tough Test match. But it's brilliant preparation for the World Cup.

"It is quite strange because it's a pre-season game. Usually, you've had quite a few games before an international, but this is the first hit-up for a lot of the boys.

"Probably, there will be parts of the game where both sides are rusty, but hopefully it will be a good show and it will be a good Test match.

"Everyone needs game-time, but it's the same for both sides. We just have to hit the ground running. Preparation has gone well, so we will take confidence from that.

"This is the first proper pre-season I've had since the last World Cup, so hopefully the hard slog we've been through in training will pay off. All the hard work is in the bank.

"When (World Cup squad) selection comes around on Monday, we're all going to be biting our nails. But we have an opportunity to stake a claim this weekend, and that's what the boys will be trying to do."

Selection headlines this weekend see Wales wing George North return for a first appearance since March following his three concussions last season - the 23-year-old also wins his 50th cap - while there is a Test debut for York-born Exeter prop Tomas Francis.

Francis, 23, qualifies for Wales through his Swansea Valley-born grandmother and he appears firmly on course to be among the prop contingent in Gatland's final World Cup group.

"He (Francis) is a lovely guy," said lock Alun-Wyn Jones, who captains Wales this weekend with regular skipper Sam Warburton resting a minor shoulder knock.

"He has put his hand up, he came in and did a lot of work behind the scenes where he can get to a point where he can not just be a set-piece asset, but around the park. Credit to him.

"He is progressing, and he has got the opportunity on the weekend."

And assessing Saturday's challenge, Gatland added: "We all recognise we were poor in the first half against Ireland in the last game. We obviously played a lot better in the second half, and a lot of players that were pretty inexperienced learned from that occasion.

"So it's about playing away from home and getting a bit of confidence and trying to replicate potentially what is going to happen at Twickenham in those two big World Cup games (against England and Australia)."


From Belfast Telegraph