Six Nations

Schmidt urges discipline ahead of Wales visit

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has urged his side to be disciplined when they begin their defence of the Six Nations against Wales on Sunday.

Schmidt was unhappy at the way referees handled the scrum at last year's Rugby World Cup and claims teams are more likely to concede penalties when playing Wales.

The New Zealander warned referee Jerome Garces, who officiated two of Ireland's matches at the World Cup, not to come into this game with any "pre-conceived ideas" and wants to see the penalty count kept to a minimum.

"If you look at the pattern across the Six Nations, a number of teams have their highest penalty count when they play Wales," he said.

"It is one of those things, a complication when you're playing them. You've got to try and limit that number.

"If you review that game between Wales and England at the World Cup [which Wales won 28-25], there's a number of penalties that I'm sure England would have been disappointed with and that's one of those conundrums.

"We still maintained a pretty good discipline, our penalty count in the last Six Nations averaged less than 10, the year before was less than eight and there's nothing that we're doing that's different in trying to stay disciplined than there was those two times.

"A lot of them last time against Wales came at the scrum and we were exasperated by that, but that's one of those things. We have to try and manage ourselves and we'll continue to try to manage it."

Ireland - winners of the previous two championships - were beaten 23-16 by Wales on their way to edging Warren Gatland's men and England to last year's title on points difference.

Having moved ahead through the kicking of Leigh Halfpenny and Dan Biggar, Wales held off the Irish challenge to clinch victory.

"It was one of the toughest defensive periods I have known, and it is testament to how tough a side they are," said Wales lock Luke Charteris of the 2015 clash.

"You know you have been in a game against them, and your body feels it for a few days afterwards, for sure.

"It will take the same standard of defensive effort, although hopefully we will not have to make quite as many tackles as last year.

"It is easier if you control the ball, but games against Ireland are always tough."

Wing Tom James will make his first Wales appearance since 2010, while Rob Evans and Justin Tipuric will also start in Dublin, where Ireland - adapting to life without retired captain Paul O'Connell - will hand a debut to back-row CJ Stander.


Key Opta stats:

- These sides have played 60 Tests on Irish soil in total, with the two evenly balanced on 28 wins apiece and four draws shared.
- Ireland's last six meetings against Wales in Dublin have alternated between wins and defeats (W3, L3); Ireland would have to win for this pattern to continue.
- This will be the fifth time under Warren Gatland that Wales have started a Six Nations campaign away from home; they have won three of their previous four away openers under Gatland, including their last such fixture, which was against Ireland.
- No team has won more of their opening Six Nations fixtures than Ireland (since 2000), who have won 13 of their 16 openers in the competition (level with England).
- Wales had the best goal kicking success rate (90 per cent) at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, with Dan Biggar knocking over 19/21 attempts and Rhys Priestland 7/8.
- Ireland meanwhile had the best tackling success rate (89 per cent), lineout success rate (98 per cent) and ruck success rate (97 per cent).