Six Nations: Ireland v Wales 5th Feb 14:30
As the 2012 Six Nations gets underway this weekend, Ireland and Wales go head to head at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday as Paddy Power make Ireland heavy favourites in the latest betting odds.
This gives the home side an immediate chance for World Cup revenge of course. Back in South Africa, Wales secured a famous quarter-final victory over the Irish and this will still be fresh in the memory.
Much like all Six Nations teams, both Ireland and Wales will be looking at the start of a successful new era in 2012. The latest Rugby World Cup has been and gone and now it is time to begin preparations for the next one.
It is Ireland that are favourites for victory in this Six Nations opener. They have defeated Wales in each of their last three visits to the Aviva Stadium and will be looking to extend this run.
Wales are not helped by a long injury list either. Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees, Lloyd Burns, Luke Charteris and Alun-Wyn Jones are all out of contention for this one, while Shane Williams has retired.
For Ireland, the most significant team news is that Keith Earls will start at centre. The 24-year-old starts in the absence of injured talisman Brian O’Driscoll and the spotlight is bound to be on him, right from the very first whistle.
Ireland coach Declan Kidney is backing Earls to impress too, saying that he can help the hosts to a positive start in this year’s Six Nations.
He said: “Keith is looking forward to it and has played well there for Munster. Players just want to play so they know they need to adapt. Keith’s had a lot of time at 13 and is comfortable there.”
As ever when these two teams meet, it could be a cracking encounter. Both will want to start 2012 positively and it should be a very competitive contest.
The action gets underway from 2.30pm on Sunday afternoon.