Wales boss Warren Gatland insists his side are ready for Ireland game
Wales boss Warren Gatland insists his side are in a healthy state ahead of their RBS 6 Nations match against Ireland.
Last Updated: 04/02/14 8:21pm
Gatland is not only chasing an unprecedented Six Nations hat-trick but they have also not lost an away game in the tournament since 2011 and he remains intent on keeping this record.
Wales have also won three of their last four games against Ireland but under the lead of new coach Joe Schmidt they continue to make strong progress which could upset Wales' plans to continue on from their 23-15 win over Italy last weekend.
"By all accounts, they (Ireland) have spent the last two weeks preparing for this game on Saturday," Gatland said.
"We are aware of that, and they are two teams that won their opening game going head to head. It is a massive game for both teams.
"We haven't lost an away match in the Six Nations since 2011, and we have to have the belief and confidence that we can do it again this weekend.
"We feel in most tournaments that we get stronger as it goes on, and that will need to be the case this weekend."
Gatland has made three changes to the side that beat Italy which sees the return of captain Sam Warburton, prop Gethin Jenkins and lock Andrew Coombs.
Uncapped Scarlets lock James Bell has also been named as a replacement for Saturday and if he makes it off the bench it will be his 50th cap for Wales.
However the back division remains unchanged by Gatland and the boss is excited to see Warburton make his first start for Wales since November.
"Gethin has trained well, and Sam comes back into the side as well and we know it's going to be pretty physical up front," Gatland said.
"In terms of people in the world stealing and poaching ball and winning penalties, Sam is definitely one of the best in world rugby.
"We will be looking forward to competing quite hard at the breakdown.
"It is a shame for Luke, and (centre) Jonathan (Davies) is still not quite right. He will probably train with us this week and maybe have another game for the Scarlets next week.
"Other than that, we are in a pretty healthy state."
Meanwhile skipper Warburton admitted he found the response from the crowd very overwhelming when he made his first appearance for Wales 16 minutes from time since their defeat to Australia on 30 November.
"I couldn't help but hear it when I ran on the pitch," Gatland said.
"It was a great feeling, to be honest, to think that that many people were acknowledging and supporting you.
"It was one of the highlights of my career, it was quite overwhelming.
"I was really pleased to get back on the pitch and feel the speed and intensity of Test match rugby and just get rid of a few cobwebs.
"I have always found Ireland one of the more difficult sides to play against.
"The game is a bit more open, it is physical at the breakdown. It ticks all the boxes for a Test match.
"If I had to pick games that I really look forward to playing in, Ireland games are always there."