x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Declan Kidney seeks corrections against Wales in Six Nations

Coach excited to play against side his boys lost to in the Rugby World Cup last year.

Ireland's rematch with Wales following their Rugby World Cup defeat by the Welsh will be riveting, Declan Kidney, the Ireland coach, predicted on Saturday on the eve of their Six Nations opener.

Kidney, who guided his side to top of their pool at the World Cup, beating Australia on the way, said the Irish needed to correct aspects of their game that had gone wrong in the 22-10 defeat by Wales in New Zealand.

"We need to exploit the opportunities we had but didn't take in the quarter-final and also tighten up defensively," he said.

"Wales took their opportunities and we didn't. Little things will make the difference. It'll be a cracker."

Brian O'Driscoll, the Ireland captain, has been ruled out of the tournament and his successor, Paul O'Connell, said he expected a highly physical encounter influenced by the World Cup defeat and also by a controversial defeat by Wales in the Six Nations last year. In the latter, a 19-12 Wales victory, a Mike Phillips try should not have been allowed.

"There has been a lot of talk about this match and given the World Cup defeat and what happened in last year's Six Nations game I expect an incredibly physical game," said O'Connell, a 32-year-old lock, who will win his 83rd cap and captained the British and Irish Lions in their series loss to South Africa in 2009.

Ahead of Sunday's match, he said morale in the Ireland camp has been raised since the defeat in New Zealand as players had enjoyed success with their provinces in the European Cup. O'Connell plays for Munster, whose province joined Leinster and Ulster in the last eight along with just one Welsh club.

"It's hard to say what actual impact that could have on the game itself," he said. "It's good to have confident guys coming into the camp. They've been showing good form but inside the camp you have to start learning new calls and rebuilding relations with players from other provinces.

"It is a different level, obviously, from the European Cup but the upshot is you have a group of players who have been playing well and winning important matches when under pressure."

Toby Faletau, the flanker, is viewing the game as "a new beginning" for Wales.

The No 8 for the Newport Gwent Dragons was an ever-present throughout the Wales World Cup campaign, playing a major role in posting their best performance on a global stage since 1987.

The tournament semi-finalists can still reflect on a job well done in New Zealand, but that is coupled with a sense of frustration that it could, and possibly should, have been even better.

Faletau, 21, knows that life must move on. "We can't live on the World Cup," said Faletau, who is one of 10 players in the current team who played in the quarter-final victory over Ireland.

"We've got to move on. It is a new beginning. We start again this weekend, and, hopefully, we will build momentum and go on from there.

"I was just glad to win the quarter-final and come through the game. We defended well, and that made the difference.

"We had our game-plan, and it worked."

Key to success for Wales that day was Faletau's display alongside his back-row colleagues Dan Lydiate and Sam Warburton in stopping a revered Irish breakaway trio of Stephen Ferris, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip.