Six Nations: A combined Wales and Ireland XV ahead of Saturday’s clash in Cardiff

Wales v Ireland combined Credit: Alamy
Wales v Ireland combined Credit: Alamy

Wales and Ireland have named their teams ahead of Saturday’s huge Six Nations opener at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

They are two talented outfits, but which side has the edge on ability and form? We have tried to answer that question by putting together a team from the two nations.

Wales and Ireland combined XV

15 Hugo Keenan (Ireland): In an Ireland backline that is full of talent, Keenan often gets overlooked when praise is being dished out, but not by us. The Leinster full-back is an outstanding and reliable player at the back and comfortably gets in ahead of Liam Williams as our number 15, with the Ireland star very much at the peaking stage in his career whereas the Welshman is not the threat he once was. A lovely balanced runner who is crucial to the cause.

14 Josh Adams (Wales): Adams regularly delivers the goods at international level as Wales have a finisher they can rely on if an opportunity comes his way. While Mack Hansen is a talented and hard-working wing who has impressed for Ireland whenever called upon, Adams just has that killer instinct and a knack for scoring tries when Wales need them. They will certainly hope that trend continues on Saturday as Wales must take every chance in the Irish red zone.

13 Garry Ringrose (Ireland): One of the form players in world rugby so far this season, Ringrose’s game has gone from strength to strength and we are excited to see how he fares in this Rugby World Cup year. Much like Keenan, the outside centre is a balanced and silky runner who has added extra power to his game in recent years. While George North has enjoyed a revival since switching to 13, Ringrose is at another level in terms of form and quality right now.

12 Stuart McCloskey (Ireland): There is plenty of potential in Wales centre Joe Hawkins and he will no doubt grow as a Test player as the minutes rack up. However, the rise of McCloskey has been coming for some time and it’s pleasing to see hard work finally pay off for the Ulsterman. So often in and out of the Ireland set-up, his performances in the Autumn Nations Series have now proved once and for all that he belongs at this level. He should be proud of that.

11 James Lowe (Ireland): His return to the Ireland fold cannot be downplayed as Lowe is special player who injects enthusiasm throughout the team. Much more experienced than Wales’ left wing Rio Dyer who, to his credit, has been in decent form for the Dragons this season, Lowe’s work-rate and handy knack for getting over the advantage line is a massive plus to Ireland every time he wears the shirt. His booming left boot also proves handy inside their own half.

10 Johnny Sexton (Ireland): It’s one of the individual battles of the opening weekend of the Six Nations as Sexton and Dan Biggar face off. Both are rock solid Test match fly-halves but Sexton gets the nod here as his importance to Ireland since that British & Irish Lions snub, even at 37 years of age, has grown and grown. Both Sexton and Biggar are two Six Nations greats but we’ve gone for the Irish veteran, who could well be set for his final Championship.

9 Jamison Gibson-Park (Ireland): Another difficult call here as Tomos Williams has deservedly nailed down the Welsh nine jersey after consistent performances at Test level. But the emergence of Gibson-Park as a starter in this Irish side has taken the team to a new level. The former Hurricanes scrum-half brings tempo, slick service and superb organisation at the base and is a key cog in Ireland’s machine, with the on-field relationships he’s made at Leinster a positive.

8 Taulupe Faletau (Wales): When on form there are few better number eights in world rugby and the whole of Wales will pray that it’s peak Faletau in 2023. There is no doubt that Caelan Doris is an outstanding back-row who has been pulling up trees for Leinster and Ireland for some time, but the class and skill-set Faletau possesses cannot be understated. Such a gifted rugby player, his power, speed and quality with ball in hand and in defence makes him a special player.

7 Josh van der Flier (Ireland): Two world-class openside flankers take to the field in Cardiff on Saturday but there’s no hiding from the fact that Van der Flier was recently crowned World Rugby Player of the Year. A rock in this Ireland side and undroppable right now, the Leinster star’s physicality and try-scoring threat in a fearsome and balanced pack has seen him grow as a player during his Test career. While Tipuric is outstanding, we had to pick Van der Flier.

6 Jac Morgan (Wales): Another player bang in form at the moment is the Ospreys forward, who is at home in any of the back-row positions. Morgan’s performance against Leicester Tigers recently was top drawer and it’s fantastic for Wales fans to see him join Tipuric and Faletau in the back-row many wanted to see. Peter O’Mahony’s nous, lineout threat, leadership and presence cannot be downplayed but Morgan right now is a special prospect who could achieve great things.

5 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales): The old stager gets the nod here over James Ryan as his absence was felt in the Welsh camp in the Autumn Nations Series before he returned against the Wallabies. He looked full of energy in that match in a performance that defied his age and if he can keep playing like that then Warren Gatland will have no qualms in continuing to select him. Talisman doesn’t do Jones justice and what he’s done for Wales in his career is simply amazing.

4 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland): Another British & Irish Lion joins Jones in our second-row as the pilfering machine Beirne is our number four. His form for both Munster and Ireland simply never dips and if Ireland are to claim the Six Nations title this year then a strong campaign from Beirne is highly likely to have been crucial. Adam Beard is a fantastic lock in his own right but Beirne just has everything in his tool box that a modern day forward would kill for.

3 Finlay Bealham (Ireland): We had Tadhg Furlong locked and loaded but fitness ruled him out of Andy Farrell’s side that he confirmed on Thursday. That meant Connacht’s Bealham got the nod in green and he’s also good enough to make our line-up, with Tomas Francis missing out. Bealham’s performances off the bench in the autumn were excellent and Saturday offers him a wonderful opportunity to nail down the bench spot behind Furlong in this World Cup year.

2 Ken Owens (Wales): There was a difference in opinion at Planet Rugby here as Dan Sheehan was backed but we settled on the experienced Owens, who, like Jones, keeps on producing despite his advancing years. His set-piece work, both scrum and lineout, and carrying efforts in the tight are vital to his team’s cause. Watch out for Sheehan in Cardiff, who is outstanding in the loose, but Wales skipper Owens is a gnarly Test match animal.

1 Andrew Porter (Ireland): Finally, we conclude with one of our more straightforward selections as Porter’s switch from tighthead to loosehead prop certainly paid off for player, province and country. Solid in the set-piece and also mobile and skilful around the park, the 27-year-old has formed a deadly combination with Furlong over recent seasons and gets in ahead of Wales’ Gareth Thomas. Porter’s form and age is fantastic news for Ireland long term.

READ MORE: Six Nations: Tadhg Furlong ruled out of Ireland’s opener against Wales, Finlay Bealham starts

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