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This Welsh Journalist Really Fancies Wales To Punish Ireland This Year

This Welsh Journalist Really Fancies Wales To Punish Ireland This Year
By Conor Neville
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Andy Howell of Wales Online and The Western Mail believes Wales will in this year's Six Nations championship and reckons that Ireland could be in danger of slipping up against Italy this weekend.

He does not buy into the consensus that Ireland are favourites for the tournament, citing their injuries and Wales' strong form towards the end of 2014. Speaking to Balls.ie, he attributes Wales' flat performance in last year's championship to mental tiredness after the exertions of so many of players on the Lions tour.

On paper if we were picking a composite team of Ireland and Wales players, I think there would be more Welsh players in it than Irish players.

AUDIO: Howell on Wales v Ireland

[audio mp3="https://media.balls.ie/uploads/2015/02/Andy-Howell-on-Wales-v-Ireland.mp3"][/audio]

While long-time Ireland critic Stephen Jones may have extolled Paul O'Connell's greatness after last year's November series, Howell reckons recent evidence suggests O'Connell is not the player he was, citing Munster's demoralising defeat to Saracens last month, where he says O'Connell was 'anonymous'.

Ireland's astonishing record in Cardiff over the past thirty years does not overly concern Howell who points out that Wales 'smashed' Ireland in the 2011 World Cup and also won in Cardiff that year.

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AUDIO: The Cardiff factor
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[audio mp3="https://media.balls.ie/uploads/2015/02/Andy-Howell-on-The-Cardiff-Factor.mp3"][/audio]

 

Howell annoyed some Irish fans in 2013 when he complained about Warren Gatland's selection for the final Lions test in Australia - on the basis that there weren't enough Welsh players. Howell believed 12 players deserved to start the final test on form. It was that tour and the amount of Welsh players on it that accounted for Wales' slack display in early 2014.

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He believes that Ireland may have trouble navigating the opening weekend trip to Rome, largely due to injuries and the Italians tendency to pull out at least one good performance a season, usually early on in the tournament.

AUDIO: The shape Wales are in and Ireland's game with Italy

[audio mp3="https://media.balls.ie/uploads/2015/02/Andy-Howell-on-Ireland-v-Italy.mp3"][/audio]

 

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Ultimately, he fancies Wales for the championship and says the ultimate winner will be dependent on the outcome of this Friday's game in Cardiff.

AUDIO: Tournament Prediction

[audio mp3="https://media.balls.ie/uploads/2015/02/Andy-Howell-prediction.mp3"][/audio]

See also: The Comical Tale Of How Ireland Became The First Top Tier Rugby Nation To Lose To Italy

See also: The Story Of Ireland's Forgotten Five Nations Title

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