‘There is a lot of work to be done, but we want to start that and show an improvement against Ireland’: Wales coach Wayne Pivac urges his players to relish the challenge as they seek to avoid sixth successive defeat
- Wales have not lost six on the spin since an eight-match losing run in 2012-13
- Coach Pivac has largely stuck with the experienced team that lost to Scotland
- Justin Tipuric replaces flanker James Davies in the only change against Ireland
Wayne Pivac wants to turn the Welsh back into believers by ending a bad run of five consecutive defeats in Ireland on Friday.
Wales have not lost six on the spin since an eight-match losing run in 2012-13, so the pressure is piling on Pivac.
And the New Zealander largely stuck with the experienced team that lost to Scotland, only bringing back Justin Tipuric for James Davies after the flanker recovered from tonsillitis.
Wayne Pivac has only made one change to the team that lost to Scotland in the Six Nations
WALES TEAM TO PLAY IRELAND
Backs: L Halfpenny; Liam Williams, J Davies, O Watkin, J Adams; D Biggar, G Davies
Forwards: R Carre, R Elias, T Francis; W Rowlands, AW Jones (capt), S Lewis-Hughes; J Tipuric, T Faletau
Replacements: E Dee, W Jones , S Lee, J Ball, A Wainwright, Lloyd Williams, C Sheedy, G North
Another defeat would be unpalatable, and while Pivac is relishing the challenge he is desperate for Wales not to lose the traits that at times made them great under his predecessor Warren Gatland.
‘There is a lot of work to be done, but we want to start that and show an improvement in Friday night’s game,’ said the Wales boss.
‘And we need to do that, because with good performances comes confidence and self-belief. And with poor performances, it’s the opposite.
‘The self-belief and the determination we had without the ball as a Welsh team, we have to get that back very quickly, because we don’t want that eroded away, because it’s a special quality to have.
Justin Tipuric replaces James Davies at flanker in the only change for Wales against Ireland
‘I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t any pressure. What we needed after Scotland was another opponent put in front of us reasonably quickly.
‘We would have taken anyone to be quite honest, but this is going to be a good game for us because the Irish are a good side.
‘We know what’s coming and we have to be up for it defensively and both mentally and physically. We have to have that desire to go out and perform. It will certainly be a great test.’
The changes for Wales in this Autumn Nations Cup opener come on the bench where Samson Lee, Elliot Dee, Jake Ball and George North return with fly-half Callum Sheedy who could win his first cap.
Wales have not lost six in a row since 2012 – that was an eight-match run going into 2013
The squad boasts 1,089 caps-worth of experience. Tomas Francis, the tight-head, will play in his 50th and North, re-instated on the bench, could feature in his 100th international. Josh Navidi, Rhys Webb and Ross Moriarty are not fit yet, with the latter rolling his ankle in training.
Tipuric knows senior men need to step up tomorrow night.
‘There was a lot of frustration after the Scotland game because everyone knows we can play a lot better than that,’ he said of the 14-10 defeat in Llanelli he missed.
‘As a kid, no-one likes losing a game of rugby, and especially now, when you are older.
‘You are not there to play the game to lose, and we want to get back to winning ways and start getting Wales back to winning ways.
‘As soon as you put that red jersey on, there’s no excuse for not getting up for a game. At the end of the day, you are representing your country.
Hayward departed from his role as Wales defence coach just days before the Autumn Nations
‘I don’t think there’s much motivation needed other than that. You are getting out there and you’ve got those three feathers on your chest.’
Having sacked his defence coach Byron Hayward last Sunday, and with criticism swirling around Pivac may be looking for his gnarled old side to pull him out of a hole in Dublin.
But he will not pile it all on them, choosing to block out the growing negative noises and focussing on a positive game-plan which he hopes helps them chalk a first win in Ireland since 2015.
‘For me it’s about putting my business hat on and doing my best for the team,’ he said.
‘We’re in this together and are working hard to get the results we so desperately want.
‘We want to really express ourselves, which we felt that we didn’t do against Scotland.’