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Mar 14, 2015 at 2.30pm UK
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Preview: Wales vs. Ireland

Sports Mole previews this weekend's crunch Six Nations meeting between title hopefuls Wales and Ireland at the Millennium Stadium.

Ireland travel to Cardiff this weekend looking to maintain their charge for an impressive Grand Slam success against a Wales side who are equally desperate for a victory.

Josef Schmidt's men have won each of their last 10 games, including all three during this year's Six Nations championship, to close in on the crown for a second year in succession.

Wales assistant coach Robin McBryde is the latest in a growing list of people to have heaped praise on Ireland ahead of Saturday's showdown, admitting that his side will have to be at their best if they are to keep their own hopes of winning the competition alive.

They may have gotten off to a slow start, but since their disappointing opening-game defeat against arch-rivals England last month, the Red Dragons have recovered by winning their last two games to keep alive their hopes of ousting Ireland and lifting the historic trophy for a third time in four years.

Keeping this momentum going will be key for a Wales side who are unchanged for the Millennium Stadium showdown, knowing that a defeat will signal a killer blow to their campaign with the World Cup on home soil fast approaching.

This may be the fourth leg of Ireland's Grand Slam parade, but as well as seeking value points on Saturday they will also be keen to familiarise themselves with a stadium which will play host to at least two of their fixtures at the World Cup.

It will also mark a special occasion for skipper Paul O'Connell, who is in line for his 100th Ireland cap in Cardiff. He retains his place in the starting XV, with Jamie Heaslip the only alteration from the 19-9 win over England last time out.

Likewise, Wales captain Sam Warburton will make his own piece of history as he leads out his team for a record 34th time in the must-win clash, aiming to guide the hosts to a victory which will keep the title race wide open heading into the final weekend of fixtures.

It may have been 13 months since Ireland last tasted defeat, that coming in a narrow 13-10 reverse against England, but as centre Robbie Henshaw put it, this could potentially be the visiting side's "toughest" match in that run.


Recent form: WLWLWW

Starting lineup: 15-Leigh Halfpenny, 14-George North, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Jamie Roberts, 11-Liam Williams, 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Rhys Webb; 1-Gethin Jenkins, 2-Scott Baldwin, 3-Samson Lee, 4-Luke Charteris, 5-Alun Wyn Jones, 6-Dan Lydiate, 7-Sam Warburton (captain), 8-Toby Faletau


Recent form: WWWWWW

Starting lineup: 15-Rob Kearney, 14-Tommy Bowe, 13-Jared Payne, 12-Robbie Henshaw, 11-Simon Zebo, 10-Johnny Sexton, 9-Conor Murray; 1-Jack McGrath, 2-Rory Best, 3-Mike Ross, 4-Devin Toner, 5-Paul O'Connell, 6-Peter O'Mahony, 7-Sean O'Brien, 8-Jamie Heaslip

Sports Mole says: 14-20

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Ireland's Paul O'Connell in action against New Zealand during their International match on November 24, 2013
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McBryde heaps praise on 'talismanic' O'Connell

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