Warren Gatland wants Wales to ‘attack’ Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray in Dublin after axing the man England unsettled at Twickenham.
Rhys Patchell was dropped from the match-day squad entirely for Saturday’s Ireland Test, replaced at fly-half by Lions tourist Dan Biggar, 28, who has recovered from a shoulder injury ahead of schedule.
Eddie Jones targeted 24-year-old Patchell before the England match and the Scarlet endured a tough afternoon.
Warren Gatland wants Wales to ‘attack’ Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray in Dublin
It comes after England boss Eddie Jones targeted Rhys Patchell ahead of Twickenham clash
WALES TEAM TO PLAY IRELAND
WALES XV: Halfpenny; L Williams, S Williams, Parkes, S Evans; Biggar, G Davies; R Evans, Owens, Lee, Hill, AW Jones, Shingler, Moriarty (NO.8), Navidi.
Replacements: Dee, W Jones, Francis, B Davies, Tipuric, A Davies, Anscombe, North.
Now Gatland wants Wales to hound Ireland’s half-back combination which the Kiwi coach described as ‘probably one of the best in world rugby.’ ‘We’ve got to attack them,’ he said of Sexton and Murray whom he coached on last summer’s Lions tour.
‘We’ve had some pretty good success not allowing Johnny too much time and space on the ball. Our line-speed defensively has got to be good.
‘We have got to put Conor and his kicking game under pressure – we have to be prepared to be pretty physical against them.
‘I thought the way Wales played at home against them last year (winning 22-9) was outstanding, that is the benchmark to take to Ireland.
‘We have got to be physical against them up-front and stop allowing Murray and Sexton to dominate the game. We’ve got a job to do to try and shut them down. If we can do that we have got a chance.’
Gatland described Sexton (L) and Murray (R) as one of the best half-back pairings in the world
The Wales boss said Andy Farrell, now Ireland’s defence coach but was part of Gatland’s Lions staff in New Zealand last summer, ‘won’t be happy’ with allowing Italy to score 19 points
And Gatland had another subtle poke at his Lions’ den, commenting that tour defence coach Andy Farrell ‘won’t be happy with Ireland conceding 19 points against Italy’.
The Irish won 56-19 in Dublin against the Azzurri but Gatland was right, as Ireland’s defence coach Farrell admitted he was ‘fuming’ yesterday.
‘The last quarter wasn’t acceptable,’ he said.
‘Because average is not acceptable in this environment. We need to be more ruthless than that.’
Wales have a good recent record against Ireland. They are unbeaten in their last three championship matches against them, drawing once in 2016.
Wales are unbeaten in their last three championship matches against Ireland
And when asked if he thought if Joe Schmidt’s side were the best in the tournament Gatland said: ‘No. England are a tough outfit. Ireland ground out a win in France.
‘But they’re a quality side and we know how difficult they are to beat.
‘We’re pretty happy with our record against them over the last four or five games.
‘We know it’s a massive, must-win game, in Dublin against a team that are difficult to get the ball off.’
Gatland elected to stay with the same pack that lost to England and beat Scotland, meaning no return for Taulupe Faletau at No 8. Sportsmail understands he will feature for Bath against Sale this Saturday in the Premiership.
Liam Williams comes in for Josh Adams on the right wing as Leigh Halfpenny is fit again to start, after a foot infection, alongside Biggar whose combative edge, experience and superb kicking game saw him get the nod over Patchell, who will go to Dublin just as a travelling reserve.
Liam Williams comes in for Josh Adams on the right wing as Leigh Halfpenny is fit again to start
‘We know how good Dan is in the air defensively and on attack,’ added Gatland.’ ‘Our kicking game against Scotland was very good, shutting down the threat of Stuart Hogg. But it was disappointing at Twickenham.
‘It was probably the difference between the two sides in terms of their aerial dominance.
‘Liam is pretty good in the air, having George on the bench, Dan and Leigh Halfpenny – we’ve added more experience and players who are comfortable in those situations.
‘With Dan if it was a younger player that hadn’t had much game time then you’d probably be looking at a different scenario. We felt it was the right time to bring him back in.
‘Rhys needs to get back on the horse. That’s what good players do. You put that disappointment behind you, you get back there and you fight harder. He’ll learn from his experiences last week.’