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Other side: Gatland eager to instil belief pre-World bid


Man in charge: Warren Gatland will lead Wales into a World Cup for the second time in Autumn

Man in charge: Warren Gatland will lead Wales into a World Cup for the second time in Autumn

?INPHO/Billy Stickland

Man in charge: Warren Gatland will lead Wales into a World Cup for the second time in Autumn

We've been here before of course. A relatively unfancied Wales coming up against an Irish side with momentum behind them.

What happened then took place in Wellington back in 2011 when Warren Gatland's tactical nous derailed Ireland and helped lift Wales into a World Cup semi-final.

Four years on and much has changed, but the taciturn Kiwi is still at the helm in Wales and directing them towards what will be his second World Cup in charge this autumn.

Heading that way off the back of a healthy Six Nations will do much for belief in what will be a fiendishly difficult pool as England and Australia are also there.

It will also reinvigorate Gatland's reputation as a coach who, though not renowned for being innovative, possesses the ability to win.

Three Six Nations titles, with two Grand Slams thrown in, are undeniable indicators of what Gatland has brought to the party though, of course, the 2013 championship success was in actual fact achieved under Rob Howley's watch while the Kiwi plotted what would be a rare series win for the British and Irish Lions.

Nevertheless, it is time again for Wales to show whether they are progressing or treading water.

And rest assured, Gatland will be very eager to get the better of Joe Schmidt.

But what of Wales? After collapsing against England from what looked like a winning position they escaped with a win over Scotland before seeing off a dismally profligate France.

So, nothing special then? Maybe, but this could be a Wales team feeling their way towards really clicking.

They have the playing talent and today's situation is also tailor-made for Gatland to show his mettle as a man with a plan.

Up front, they have greater mobility so you can expect a plan designed to move Ireland around while props Samson Lee and Gethin Jenkins will provide more awkwardness in the scrums.

They possess a mighty lineout and the totemic Alun-Wyn Jones.

As for the breakdown, this is fertile territory for skipper Sam Warburton while the workhorses Dan Lydiate and the skilful Toby Faletau make up a well-balanced back row.

Then there is the strike power behind the scrum with half-backs Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar more than capable while centres Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies are sure to ratchet up the pressure.

And not forgetting George North lurking out on the wing and Leigh Halfpenny capable of kicking from almost anywhere.

Wales certainly have all the weaponry to win but the question remains over whether they have discovered the game-plan.

Another Wellington would be welcome, delivering a seismic win with substance rather than style being the order of the day.

Belfast Telegraph