Wales v Ireland, Six Nations Championship, March 21
Gaffney promises expansive approach
March 16, 2009
Ireland's Jamie Heaslip celebrates scoring a try against Scotland, Scotlandv Ireland, Six Nations, Murrayfield, Scotland, March 14, 2009
Ireland's Jamie Heaslip celebrates scoring his side's only try against Scotland at Murrayfield © Getty Images

Ireland backs coach Alan Gaffney has predicted a thrilling encounter when his side take on Wales for the Six Nations title in Cardiff on Saturday night.

Wales must beat Grand Slam-chasing Ireland by at least 13 points to overhaul their rivals defend their title and Gaffney believes that requirement will ensure a feast of attacking rugby at the Millennium Stadium.

"Wales' situation could free things up a bit. We definitely want to go out and be expansive," said the former Australia assistant coach. "It was difficult against Scotland but hopefully the game will open up against Wales. There's going to be a lot of open field running.

"They like to play the game with width. They get there in a certain way and so do we. It's not just going to be a battle. Obviously it's going to be a battle up front but both teams have a willingness to run."

Gaffney insists Ireland will resist the urge to shut up shop in a bid to prevent Wales from reaching their target. "If we play the way we want to play we'll get the result that we want," he said. "We can't go in there with the focus of trying to protect the lead or trying to do anything along those lines. We've got to go out and win this game and that's our sole intention at this time. We aren't thinking of winning one trophy and not winning the other. We can't go out."

The Irish management must have been rubbing their hands with glee as they viewed Wales' nail-biting 20-15 victory over Italy. Making 10 changes with the intention of resting his players for Saturday, head coach Warren Gatland watched in horror as the Azzurri nearly sprang a major upset.

Gatland's decision to revamp his side affected Wales' points difference, while also meaning a host of his first-choice line-up will not have been in action for three weeks heading into the biggest match of the season.

Former Saracens director of rugby Gaffney prefers his players to be battled-hardened. "Some of Wales' side probably haven't played for three weeks now," he said. "I've been involved in tournaments such as this, not that I have been involved in the Six Nations but have been involved in these areas where you get a string of games.

"I'd rather keep playing, providing you aren't overdoing it during the week at training."

Ireland will continue to asses the fitness of Denis Leamy over the coming days after the Munster number eight injured his shoulder in the 22-15 victory over Scotland. Head coach Declan Kidney names his side to face Wales tomorrow lunchtime.

"Denis didn't train and probably won't train tomorrow but there is definite hope that he will be okay by the weekend," said Gaffney. "Everyone else is fine. It's been a miraculous Six Nations on the injury front."


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