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Stephen Ferris: Ireland look too hot for champions Wales

| 03.02.2022

Ladbrokes ambassador Stephen Ferris relishes the return of the Six Nations this weekend and he previews the opening match between Ireland and defending champions Wales.

The Irish are 1/7 favourites to get off to a winning start, while Wayne Pivac’s side are 6/1.

For more Six Nations content, check out Stephen’s thoughts on Scotland v England and France v Italy.

Ireland v Wales (Saturday, 14.15, ITV)

It all kicks off this weekend when Ireland take on the reigning champions, Wales, at 2.15pm at the Aviva Stadium.

What a start to the championship this will be. The men in green are hot and heavy favourites for this titanic battle. Ireland are currently +13 on the handicap and many supporters think this could be a little generous considering it’s the first game up. Wales have been written off many times in the past, but somehow they just know how to get it done on the big occasions.

But surely the form book has to play a part? The Irish Provinces are cruising in the URC and Europe. The Irish team is made up of mostly Leinster players who smashed Montpellier by 89 points and Bath by 64 in recent weeks.

The Irish players are full of confidence and will be relishing this opportunity against Wales. They will want to lay down a marker for the rest of the teams in the tournament and get off to the perfect start by battering Wales both physically and mentally. This Ireland team is off the back of an All Blacks win in November and I can’t see them letting up.

The South African Jaco Peyper is the referee for this game. Very hot on the offside line and not rolling away at the breakdown. If either side’s discipline is poor, then this man will lay down the law. Fifty odd thousand screaming Irish fans will make sure to keep Mr Peyper in check – or will they?

Wales are without their captain Alun Wyn Jones and will rely on Dan Biggar this year to lead their team. Big boots to fill, but this British and Irish Lion won’t take a backwards step in trying to help his team to victory. If Dan Biggar outplays Jonny Sexton then we will have a match on our hands.

It just feels that Ireland’s strength and depth across so many positions will have them challenging for this year’s championship. Wales however, might shock a couple of teams over the coming weeks, but should run out of steam as the tournament progresses.

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Warren Barner