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Gatland wary over direct Ireland

Warren Gatland accepts Wales will need to "nullify" Ireland's powerful ball-carriers at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Ireland have scored seven tries in this RBS 6 Nations - a figure bettered only by title-chasing England - and much of their attacking threat comes through the direct running of forwards like Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien and Paul O'Connell.

"We have looked at their individuals and the impact they make in terms of going forward," said Wales coach Gatland. "We expect them to use a lot of one-off runners, and it is important we get off the line and try to nullify that."

He added: "It is something we've been effective at in the past. When we play teams like South Africa, you try to nullify their big ball-carriers, and we need to do that on Saturday."

Both teams will need to improve their discipline after conceding 78 penalties and free kicks between them so far in the Six Nations campaign, while Wales have collected three yellow cards to Ireland's one.

Such statistics point to a busy 80 minutes for South African referee Jonathan Kaplan, and Gatland added: "The breakdown is something we will talk to the referee about before the game.

"With someone like Jonathan Kaplan, who is a world-class referee, we just hope he allows us the opportunity to get quick ball. We need to be accurate ourselves at the breakdown in attack.

"If we do get quick ball, it gives us the chance to keep the ball in hand and play some attacking rugby. That's going to be a key focus for us."

Wales though, have got it all to do, as Ireland have lost just once in Cardiff since 1983 and they hold an 8-3 overall lead in Six Nations Tests between the countries.

Wales lost emphatically in Dublin last season, while 12 months previously Ireland took the Six Nations title and Grand Slam - their first championship clean sweep for 61 years - when a late Ronan O'Gara drop-goal sparked scenes of wild Irish celebration in the Welsh capital.


From Belfast Telegraph