THE SIX NATIONS is back this weekend and Ireland's first game will be against a familiar foe in Wales on Saturday
Ireland head into the tournament as the number one ranked side in the world, while Wales try to upturn their dreadful form from 2022.
Warren Gatland was appointed as head coach this year and his return throws up an interesting dynamic this Saturday.
Wales have won three Grand Slam's under Gatland's management in 2008, 2012, and 2019 and with his return the game stakes are now very different for Ireland.
Ireland are one of the favourites to lift the Webb Ellis trophy in France next year, but Ireland's first test against Wales will provide its own learning experience.
Here's a full preview of the game this weekend.
Where's it on?
Principality Stadium in Cardiff
When is it on?
What time is it on?
Saturday, Feb 4
What is Ireland's record against Wales like?
In the Six Nations Championship the two sides have faced each other 123 times with Wales winning on 66 occasions, Ireland winning 50 times and seven matches resulting in a draw.
Recent results when the sides have played each other
2022: Ireland won 29-7 in Dublin
2021: Wales won 21-16 in Cardiff
2020: Ireland won 32-9 in Dublin
2020: Ireland won 24-14 in Dublin
2019: Ireland won 19-10 in Dublin
2019: Ireland won 22-17 in Cardiff
2019: Wales won 25-7 in Cardiff
2018: Ireland won 37-27 in Dublin
What happened the last time the sides met in the 2022 Six Nations?
Ireland won 29-7 in the opening match of the 2022 Six Nations at the Aviva Stadium. A try from Bundee Aki, two from Andrew Conway, and Gary Ringrose capped of a comfortable evening for Andy Farrel's men last year.
Who are the match officials ?
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant Referee 1: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referee 2: Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)
What are the teams for the game?
A back three of Hugo Keenan at fullback, Mack Hansen, and James Lowe on the wings start the game.
Bundee Aki starts on the bench, while Ulster's Stuart McCloskey starts alongside Gary Ringrose in the centre.
Johnny Sexton captains the side from 10, while Jamison Gibson Park start beside him in the other half back role.
A front row of Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Finlay Bealham get the nod by Farrell
In the engine room Tadhg Bierne and James Ryan start as locks
Peter O'Mahoney, Josh van der Flier, and Caelan Doris complete the side
Our first line up of 2023! 🟢#TeamOfUs | #GuinnessSixNations
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) February 2, 2023
Wales announced their team earlier in the week
Leigh Halfpenny, who won 97 caps for his country was expected to start, but was ruled out on Thursday. Liam Williams replaces him and is joined in the back three with Josh Adams and Rio Dyer on the wings.
The midfield partnership of George North and Joe Hawkins start in the centre.
Dan Biggar and Tomos Williams start at 10 and 9 respectfully.
The front row consists of Gareth Thomas, Ken Owens, the captain and Tomas Francis;
Adam Beard and Alun Wyn Jones start as locks.
The final three players in the back row are Jac Morgan, Justin Tipuric and the ever-present Taulupe Faletau.
Fullback: 15. Liam Williams
Winger: 14. Josh Adams,
Centres: 13. George North, 12. Joe Hawkins,
Winger: Rio Dyer
Out half: 10. Dan Biggar, Scrum half: 9. Tomos Williams
Front row: 1. Gareth Thomas,2. Ken Owens (capt), 3. Tomas Francis
Second Row: 4. Adam Beard, 5. Alun Wyn Jones
Back Row: 6. Jac Morgan, 7. Justin Tipuric, 8. Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: Scott Baldwin, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Dafydd Jenkins, Tommy Reffell, Owen Williams, Alex Cuthbert.
🏴 𝐂𝐘𝐌𝐑𝐔 𝐗𝐕 🏴
Your Welsh 23 to face @IrishRugby at @principalitysta
💪 Amdani!#WelshRugby | #GuinnessSixNations
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏴 (@WelshRugbyUnion) January 31, 2023
What have the coaches said ahead of the game?
Andy Farrell: "I don't know if what's coming down the road is going to be bigger and better, it will have to go some to beat the atmosphere in Cardiff, so these are the moments you relish, that you look forward to.
"Hopefully you walk into the stadium with a good, strong body language that says, 'this is where I want to be'. That's the next step for our lads."
Warren Gatland: "We want to create excitement; we want supporters to look forward to going to matches.
"That is the great thing about the Six Nations, it is not just about the game but it is so much more. It is an event, it is the away fans, the atmosphere that is created in the grounds, it is the proximity of the competing teams and the bragging rights."
Odds for the game