Who Will Wales Miss Most?
With the team selection having been delayed and Wales waiting on the fitness of several key players I've been wondering who Wales could do with most for the trip to Ireland on the weekend.
Firstly we have the players who we already know will not make it, and the list does not make pleasant reading. Probable first choice second row pairing of Luke Charteris and Alun Wyn Jones will both be absent. It is good to see that Wales now have some depth at lock because losing our first choice second row combination in previous seasons would have been a disaster. It is comforting to see that Bradley Davies and Ian Evans are waiting in the wings as back up, in my opinion both deserve a chance on Sunday.
One man Wales can't replace is Gethin Jenkins. Paul James has never let anyone down in a Welsh shirt but he can't compete with what Jenkins offers around the park. I can't think of a prop who has ever played the game that has the same level of mobility and fitness as Gethin Jenkins. We will miss him terribly in Ireland because I believe that the Irish scrum could be got at by Wales, even in Jenkins' abscence it is an area we have to attack.
On so onto those who may yet make it. Firstly, Rhys Priestland. Priestland remains one of the finds of the World Cup. He get's more out of the centres outside him. He put's the ball in front of the likes of Roberts and forces them to attack the line at full tilt. It would be a real shame if he does not get a start and a chance to build on what he has achieved in the last 12 months.
Finally we come to Dan Lydiate. A player who may also yet make the big game on Sunday. As you may have guessed already (I put a photograph of him at the top of the blog) he is the player I am most keen to see fit for the Ireland game.
Why? Well to begin with I am a very big fan of Lydiate and his nothing fancy, happy to get his hands dirty approach to the game. If there were an official Dan Lydiate fan club I would certainly be a fully paid up member and possibly even the club president.
More importantly, Lydiate was made to take on this Irish team. You will hear this a couple more times this week I'm sure, but the Irish back row are really very good. They are particularly good going forward, carrying the ball with purpose and crushing all that stand in their path.
When the two teams last met in Wellington it was Dan Lydiate that made the difference. That day many in red shirt had a special game but for me Lydiate was the stand out. He nulified the threat of the Irish back row completely. I honestly don't think they knew what hit them that day. Unlike some of the other players we will miss, I don't see a natural repalcement for Lydiate. I would opt for Ryan Jones who is playing very well, but he is more in the mould of his Irish opposite numbers. An attacking, ball carrying palyer. He can't match Lydiate when playing the the backfoot, which I think Wales will have to do a fair amount of this weekend.
Fingers crossed for Dan.
Fingers crossed for Wales.