France’s thrilling 26-24 win over England gave the Six Nations a scintillating start, but Saturday’s match between Ireland and two-time defending champions Wales promises to really heat up the tournament as one nation looks to settle a score.
Pretty much the whole of Ireland — even those orientated towards Gaelic Games — will down tools on Saturday and be willing their team to deliver a hammer blow to Wales coach Warren Gatland’s hopes of an unprecedented third successive Six Nations title.
Gatland, a former Ireland coach to boot, has become a pantomime villain in Ireland since he dared to drop Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll from the British and Irish Lions side for the third and decisive Test against Australia in June last year.
Both Ireland and Wales got off to winning starts at home at the weekend — the Irish easing to a 28-6 win over a hapless Scotland, while the Welsh had a scare or two before beating Italy 23-15.
One of Ireland’s three try scorers against the Scots, Rob Kearney, had no doubts about what the atmosphere will be like come the match.
“Yes, there will be added spice,” the 27-year-old said, referring to how O’Driscoll’s dropping would impact on the game.
Kearney also inferred that Gatland’s harping on about Wales being in line to become the first side to win three successive Six Nations titles was also firing up the Irish.
“They are going for three in a row [Six Nations titles], which their coach Warren Gatland doesn’t stop telling everyone,” Kearney said.
Gatland, who when coach of Ireland gave O’Driscoll his debut on the international stage in 1999, speaking the day before the Ireland-Scotland game said he was fed-up with all the talk about it being a grudge game.
“As far as I am concerned, that’s dead and gone,” Gatland said. “It’s not about Brian and myself. Brian has moved on, I have moved on.”