Wales v Ireland - RBS Six Nations match preview
Last Updated: 02/02/13 1:18pm
Wales captain Sam Warburton is determined to silence the critics in the RBS Six Nations opener against Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday.
Despite winning the Grand Slam last year, Wales have come underfire following a run of seven straight defeats.
However Warburton insists Wales, who have named new cap Andrew Coombs, Ian Evans, Adam Jones, Dan Biggar and George North in their starting XV, are confident of their chances.
"We weren't favourites for the title last year and I remember most people wrote us off for the opening game, but not only did we win that game, but the Grand Slam," Warburton said.
"As players we ignore what is being said from outside. We will take massive confidence from being the reigning champions. No one can take that away from us, no matter what has happened since then.
"It was a great achievement and a lot of the boys from last year are here again and know what it takes."
Warburton will find himself up against the imposing figure of Sean O'Brien at the Millennium Stadium.
And the powerhouse Ireland flanker is a man on a mission after his side's controversial 23-21 loss to Wales in last season's opening game.
Leigh Halfpenny slotted over a last-minute penalty after Stephen Ferris was harshly deemed to have performed a tip-tackle on Ian Evans.
"There's a bit of hurt on our part after losing the last three and we want to put that right," said O'Brien, who joins Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Rory Best in returning to the Ireland line-up.
"Things didn't go our way last year, which was unfortunate because we played so well at times during the game. But we didn't play for the full 80 minutes, which is what we're looking to do this time.
"Wales may have lost seven in a row, but I don't think they'll be nervous at all.
"It's obviously a massive game for us. Wales are very tough opposition. The set-piece and breakdown will be massive."
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 1 Gethin Jenkins, 2 Matthew Rees, 3 Adam Jones, 4 Andrew Coombs, 5 Ian Evans, 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 Sam Warburton, 8 Toby Faletau.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Olly Kohn, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Loyd Williams, 22 James Hook, 23 Scott Williams.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 1 Cian Healy, 2 Rory Best, 3 Mike Ross, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 5 Mike McCarthy, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 7 Sean O'Brien, 8 Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ronan O'Gara, 23 Keith Earls.
RBS Six Nations 2013
Under-pressure France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has made five changes to his squad for their clash with England.
Scotland interim boss Scott Johnson refused to comment on English 'arrogance' ahead of the Calcutta Cup.
Ireland coach Declan Kidney says the Welsh clubs' poor club form this season will not be a factor in Saturday's match.
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