Wales relishing ‘tough’ clash with Six Nations favourites Ireland – Adam Beard

By Sports Desk February 14, 2024

Adam Beard says Wales will relish the size of their challenge against Guinness Six Nations title favourites Ireland in Dublin.

Wales have not won a Six Nations game at the Aviva Stadium since 2012, drawing one and losing four of the subsequent meetings.

And they face an Ireland side firmly on course to achieve an historic feat of winning Six Nations Grand Slams in successive seasons.

Having accounted for France and Italy in bonus-point fashion, Andy Farrell’s team will be backed by many to inflict similar pain on Wales on February 24.

Wales lost their opening games to Scotland and England – albeit by a combined total of just three points – so a tall order awaits them.

“Physicality is going to be one of the key components of the game,” 53-cap Wales lock Beard said.

“You see the way Ireland play their rugby. It is all about speed, winning collisions and the breakdown.

“Defensively, we have to match up with that physical battle, and in attack it’s about being clinical and physical. It will be a tough game, but one we are looking forward to.

“Ireland are a team that are playing with confidence, and it helps when a lot of them play club rugby together. We are excited to get stuck into them.”

Wales have a new look about them in this season’s Six Nations, with Leigh Halfpenny and Dan Biggar having retired from Test rugby, Louis Rees-Zammit now concentrating on a possible American football career and the likes of Jac Morgan, Taulupe Faletau and Dewi Lake all injured.

It has meant Six Nations opportunities for others, including players like Cameron Winnett, Ioan Lloyd, Archie Griffin and Alex Mann, while 21-year-old Exeter lock Dafydd Jenkins is Wales’ youngest captain for 56 years.

Beard added: “We are not far away. This squad is fairly new and boys are experiencing Six Nations rugby for the first time.

“These narrow losses (27-26 against Scotland and 16-14 against England) are disappointing, but can be good for us because it is a learning curve for a lot of players.

“If we keep working hard and developing our game, we are going to be a tough squad to beat and winning a lot more games than we are losing.

“It has probably been two great 40-minute performances from each game. We are a young squad, but Daf Jenkins hit the nail on the head after the (England) game that we can’t use that as an excuse.”

Beard has been impressed with Jenkins’ leadership, a quality he has carried into the tournament after skippering Exeter this season to strong positions in the Gallagher Premiership and Investec Champions Cup.

“He is doing great,” Beard said.

“There are a lot of leaders in this squad, and we are trying to help him out as much as possible and not have too much weight on his shoulders.

“He has had a lot of experience captaining Exeter, and he has taken things in his stride.

“It has not affected his performances in any shape or form. He has been playing some of his best rugby.

“He speaks when he needs to speak, and people listen.”

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