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Ireland vs Wales: Gatland gang can spring surprise in Dublin

Ireland vs Wales Six Nations preview and predictions

Ireland top the Six Nations table on points difference from England after successive victories against France and Italy, but they face their sternest test of the tournament on Saturday when they host Wales in Dublin.

Joe Schmidt's side go into the match without three of their Lions, while Wales welcome back several of their stars for the Aviva Stadium showdown.

The Welsh started the tournament in style with a crushing 34-7 win against Scotland and then lost 12-6 to defending champions England in a match which could have gone either way.

Gareth Anscombe had a try disallowed by the TMO although the consensus seems to be that it should have stood, while Sam Underhill's cover tackle on Scott Williams in the corner prevented a certain try.

Team news

Ireland are without Lions trio Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson and Robbie Henshaw, absentees Schmidt described as "world class". Prop Andrew Porter, lock James Ryan and Chris Farrell, with just 12 caps between them, will start.

Wales, on the other hand, have three Lions back in their starting line-up as Dan Biggar, Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams return to the fold.

Match-up history and facts

Ireland start the game as 7/20 favourites after finishing runner-up behind England last season, but the value has to be with Wales to win at 49/20.

Warren Gatland's side were magnificent against Scotland and did not get the benefit of a close TMO decision at Twickenham which would have made for a very interesting second half.

Losing players of the quality of Furlong, Henderson and Henshaw would hurt any team, but those absentees are more keenly felt by the returns of Biggar, Halfpenny and Williams for Wales.

Gatland said: "We have been pleased with the depth we have developed in the back three and pleased with how those players have gone, but having the experience of Dan, Liam and Leigh coming back in is hugely important."

Last season, Wales beat Ireland 22-9 in Cardiff and in the previous year fought out a 16-16 draw in Dublin, so they have the impetus to perform well.

Ireland have won their last seven matches at the Aviva Stadium which included victories over England, Australia and South Africa, but a weaker side could struggle against a Wales team now 12/1 to win the Six Nations.

Ireland vs Wales Betting Tip

Wales to beat Ireland @ 49/20

Six Nations Money Back Special - We're refunding your stake as a Free Bet up to $/£20 if a score or scores after 70:00 on the game clock turns your winning bet into a losing one. Min odds 1/2 (1.5). T&C's apply.

Warren Barner
@warren_barner in Rugby Union