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Ryan expects Wales to set distractions to one side and come out all guns blazing

Charging on: James Ryan is braced for Wales mission
Charging on: James Ryan is braced for Wales mission

By Nick Purewal

Second-rower James Ryan has warned Ireland that fear over their future will not distract Grand Slam-chasing Wales two weeks in a row.

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Wales ground past Scotland 18-11 at the weekend to set up a final tilt at a first Guinness Six Nations clean sweep in six years, when hosting Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday.

Warren Gatland's men had been forced to battle with a host of off-field distractions as a mooted Scarlets-Ospreys merger was confirmed then scrapped in a turbulent week's build-up to their Scotland trip.

But now all the talk of structural changes has died down, Ireland expect Wales to be fully focused and full of fire at the Principality Stadium this weekend.

Asked if Wales will be able to set all those distractions aside now, Ryan replied: "Yes, definitely. You only have to watch Wales when they are singing the national anthem at the Principality to realise how much it all means to them.

"They'll definitely be raring to go. They are a quality outfit. They've really shown that so far in the Championship and they'll be all guns blazing this weekend now.

"Obviously they have plenty of momentum now. What can we do to counteract it? I think we can control what is in front of us this week.

"Recovery is massive for us with the six-day turnaround.

"There were plenty of guys straight in the ice bath already after the game on Sunday and I think the next couple of days are really important in that regard.

"From there we'll hit the ground running on Tuesday and work on a few things that we could have been better at on Sunday and hopefully bring that to Cardiff."

England paid the price for underestimating the ferocity of the challenge both on and off the field in Wales, when Gatland's men ground past Eddie Jones' side 21-13 on February 23 in Cardiff.

Ireland are determined not to make the same mistake however, with back-row forward Jack Conan insisting Joe Schmidt's men are braced for a brutal onslaught from both crowd and opponents on Saturday.

"You know when you go to Wales how passionate their fans are, how passionate their players are - and how much sheer noise there will be in that stadium, especially if the roof is closed," said Conan. "So we have to manage that.

"But also it's about focusing inwards and making sure we're at our absolute best.

"We know how good Wales can be, so we're going to have to be at our best."

Ireland hit back to form with Sunday's 26-14 victory over France, where the hosts dominated territory and possession until withdrawing all their frontline players for the final quarter.

Try-scorer Conan admitted he was delighted to seize his chance to impress off the bench after a minor injury, and believes he has proved he can blend into a back-row also containing CJ Stander and Peter O'Mahony.

"I didn't expect to get on so early and it was a shame to lose Josh van der Flier who has been going so well," said Conan.

"Hopefully Josh can be fit for Cardiff, but it was great for me to come and show I can fill that role on the bench, and to show again that we can fit myself, CJ and Pete into the same back-row.

"It was a big day for me, a massive day for the team, and now we look forward to another huge week."

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