Going into the last weekend of the 2009 Six Nations and it is Ireland that the bookmakers have as favourites with Declan Kidney’s men a best priced 2/9 with 888sport, Blue Square, Coral, Ladbrokes and Stan James. The inclusion of Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell and Jamie Heaslip on the six man shortlist for the Six Nations player of the championship award further underlines how well the Irish have performed so far in this years tournament.
If the Welsh want to retain their Six Nations crown on Saturday evening in the Millennium Stadium they are going to have to win the match against by 13 points, the best odds on them achieving this is 9/2 and that – not surprisingly – is with Irish bookies Boylesports and Paddy Power, this would seem to be a good price as some of the other bookies have the Welsh as short as 3/1.
Former Ireland coach Warren Gatland has fired the first shots of the week by declaring that his Welsh side don’t like the Irish players too much, “Probably, out of all the teams in the Six Nations, the Welsh players dislike the Irish the most. Players’ experiences against Ireland haven’t always been the greatest, so they are very motivated to play against them.” he siad in a repeat of the mind games he also used in the build up to his teams match against England earlier in the tournament.
He then went on to question whether or not the Irish could handle the pressure claiming “After the Scottish game the Irish players were an hour-and-a-half in the changing room celebrating and singing, so they were clearly happy where they were at.
“It’s how they handle that pressure. There has been expectation on them over a number of years, and in a couple of World Cups as well.
“At international level, when there has been that expectation either to perform in Six Nations tournaments or World Cups, they’ve sometimes faltered a little bit.
“It will be interesting to see how Declan handles that, and how the players handle that this week.
“They’ve performed well in this Six Nations, but we’re at home with a massive crowd behind us.
“If you go back to the autumn, they were talking themselves up a lot before the All Blacks game – and they really performed poorly in that game.
“We’ve got to really concentrate on ourselves and put them under as much pressure as we can.”
The Irish will be clearly looking to ram those words back down his throat and it remains to be seen whether Gatland has done Ireland coach Declan Kidney’s team talk for him already.
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