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Wales lock Luke Charteris expects another physical encounter against Ireland

Luke Charteris has no doubt that Wales will need to display trademark high standards of defensive resilience in Sunday's RBS 6 Nations opener against Ireland.

But the towering Wales lock hopes for a reduced tackle count, when compared with what was required in last season's corresponding fixture.

On that occasion, Wales totalled a staggering 250 tackles as they repelled wave after wave of Irish attacks before securing an outstanding 23-16 triumph in Cardiff.

Charteris made 31 tackles himself - eight more than any other Wales player - in what was widely regarded as the Racing 92 forward's finest performance at Test level.

The 32-year-old will be back for more this weekend, winning his 63rd cap in an Aviva Stadium clash that is viewed as being pivotal to both countries' Six Nations title chances this term.

"It will take the same standard of defensive effort," Charteris said. "Although hopefully, we will not have to make quite as many tackles as last year.

"It is easier if you control the ball, but games against Ireland are always tough.

"They use a lot of one-out runners, they are very physical up-front and that is how all the games have been. We are not expecting anything different.

"Last year's game was one of the toughest defensive periods I have known, and it is testament to how tough a side they are.

"You know you have been in a game against them, and your body feels it for a few days afterwards, for sure."

One familiar opponent missing from the Ireland team this time around will be second-row talisman and former captain Paul O'Connell, who retired from Test rugby during last autumn's World Cup.

Charteris, though, believes that Ireland's consistency of strength in depth will serve them well.

"Every time you think of Ireland over the last 10-15 years, he (O'Connell) is one of the first names that jumps out," Charteris added.

"There is no doubt that he will be missed as a player.

"But I think Ireland seem to have so much strength in depth in all positions, and second-row is nothing different.

"Devin Toner has been playing brilliantly for them the last couple of years. The way they play is not going to change. They are big, physical strong guys, and I am sure they are looking forward to the challenge of trying to fill his (O'Connell's) shoes, if you like.

"He is certainly up there. Whenever you think of the great second-rows in world rugby, his name always comes into it, which is a massive compliment to him to how effective he has been, not just for Ireland, but Munster as well."

Wales have their own revered second-row warrior in Alun-Wyn Jones, who wins his 95th cap this weekend, and Charteris said: "He is the same. You talk about the best second-rows in world rugby, and you mention Paul O'Connell and you mention Alun with him as well.

"I am lucky enough to play with him a lot, and he is a quality player in what he does, his leadership, the way he plays and prepares.

"He is going to hit a brick wall one of these days, I am sure, but I don't think it will be for a good few years yet.

"He is still going like he was at 22. I am feeling older, but I think he is getting younger."


From Belfast Telegraph