Wales ready for final push for Grand Slam glory, says Ross Moriarty

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Ross Moriarty says Wales are “ready to go again” for the final push of their Guinness Six Nations title and Grand Slam bid.

Ireland stand between Wales and a first Six Nations clean sweep for seven years when the fierce rivals clash in Cardiff on Saturday.

While Wales have Grand Slam winners in their line-up – captain Alun Wyn Jones, wing George North, centre Jonathan Davies and flanker Justin Tipuric – such an achievement would represent a first for number eight Moriarty.

“Apart from winning a World Cup, it is the biggest thing for anyone in northern hemisphere rugby, so I would be really happy to achieve one,” Moriarty said.

“We’ve been building nicely over 13 games (unbeaten), and against Ireland, we won’t take a backward step to try and continue the streak.

“They are a good team, and we know what they are capable of.”

Wales put themselves in a position to challenge for European rugby’s biggest double prize by repelling a fierce second-half onslaught from Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.

An exceptional defensive display underpinned Wales’ 18-11 success, which means they remain undefeated since Ireland beat them at the midway point of last season’s Six Nations.

Moriarty added: “It was a very tough day at the office. We came up short two years ago at Murrayfield but this time we showed a lot of character to pull through.

“You could see the momentum change in the second half, but we showed character with the driving lineouts, big defensive sets and big turnovers.

“We lacked a bit of discipline at times, which gave them the chance to go to the corners, but we will definitely shape up big-time this week now.

“Sometimes, people don’t see the hard graft, but against Scotland, it showed across the board with all the forwards and all the backs. It was a big heavyweight slog.

“We’ve had some difficult games in the Six Nations, but we are ready to go again.”

Moriarty has been among Wales’ many success stories in this season’s tournament, although wing Josh Adams probably tops that particular list.

Adams’ sparkling solo try against Scotland was his third in successive Six Nations games, earning many plaudits, including from his fellow wing North.

“He’s brilliant,” North said. “He is hungry, he wants to learn, he wants to play, he is energetic and he has got an unbelievable skill-set and mindset.

“To be fair to him, every challenge he has been up against, he has fronted up.

“His finish (against Scotland) was his only real opportunity, and he took it with both hands really well. That was a world-class finish by anyone’s standard.

“It’s great to work alongside him. He asks questions and vice versa. We challenge each other, and hopefully, it brings out the best in both of us.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Six Nations 2019: Breaking down the good and bad from round four

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Wales inched closer to a first Grand Slam since 2012 by extending their 100 per cent record at the weekend.

Here, we break down the good and bad points from the weekend’s action.

WALES

Good: It may have been an indifferent performance for Warren Gatland’s side but the Grand Slam dream is firmly on track. Defended well under the pump for much of the second-half and slowed up Scotland ball at every opportunity. Always felt the Dragons had another gear despite being under pressure late on. A class side.

Bad: May be guilty of thinking ahead to their decisive encounter against Ireland next Saturday. Missed a few tackles in the second period and were forced to defend desperately when Scotland were camped in their 22. Star man Liam Williams going off injured is also a worry.

ENGLAND

Good: An incredibly powerful performance. Manu Tuilagi and Joe Cokanasiga impressed as the Red Rose crossed for eight tries in a dominant display. They could pick up a third Six Nations title in four years if Ireland beat Wales in Cardiff next week.

Bad: Hard to find many negatives with their performance considering it was a comprehensive victory.

IRELAND

Good: Ireland controlled everything – the efficiency at the breakdown, tight defence, excellent continuity play, quick line speed and general commitment to the contest. James Ryan, Garry Ringrose and Cian Healy were also sublime. Their superb win over France elevates confidence levels in time to spoil Wales’ grand slam party next weekend.

Bad: If there was one criticism for an overall strong Ireland display, they switched off defensively in the final ten minutes and conceded two tries. The withdrawal of full-back Rob Kearney before kick-off was another slight concern, but he is expected to be fit for next weekend.

FRANCE

Good: The sole positive for Jacques Brunel – besides two late tries – was the performance of Felix Lambey. The 24-year-old Lyon lock made 30 tackles over his 62 minutes on the field, including 22 in the first-half alone.

Bad: Where to start. Their discipline continues to be a disgrace, conceding a staggering 12 penalties over the course of the game. They showed no consistency in their game plan and never looked like being a threat. One of sports biggest enigmas, especially with the immense talent they have in their squad.

SCOTLAND

Good: Though it was another defeat, it was the Scots best performance of the championship so far. There was plenty to admire about the displays of Darcy Graham and Hamish Watson. The latter, in particular, showed a glimmer of his potential when introduced late in the second period, carrying with real vigour and getting them over the gain line.

Bad: Squandered a large chunk of quality positions and could have won the game if they were any way accurate. The Murrayfield defeat followed an error strewn home loss to Ireland and a meek display against France in round three in Paris. The loss of key men to injury has also diminished the team.

ITALY

Good: Their persistence in the match was one of the big positives for Conor O’Shea. They lost three centres to injury and ended up with a prop playing as a backrow at one point. For all their effort they were rewarded with a try by Luca Morisi on 53 minutes. But otherwise it was all England.

Bad: The Azzurri were unable to match the physicality of England, lacked consistency and fell to their 21st successive Six Nations defeat. A loss against France next Saturday looks likely too.

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Schmidt delighted as Ireland underline RWC credentials in France win

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Joe Schmidt believes Ireland reasserted their World Cup credentials in a punishing 26-14 Six Nations win over France in Dublin.

Captain Rory Best, Johnny Sexton, Jack Conan and Keith Earls all crossed as Ireland suffocated the disorganised French at the Aviva Stadium.

Head coach Schmidt had conceded Ireland had slipped off the perch of their stellar 2018 in losing to England and labouring past Scotland and Italy – but believes Sunday’s controlled victory plots the course back to top form.

Ireland will now attempt to derail Wales’ Grand Slam charge in Saturday’s Principality Stadium clash in Cardiff, with boss Schmidt relieved to see his men back on song.

Asked if the comprehensive France victory can prove a timely reminder of Ireland’s World Cup aims, Schmidt said: “Probably. Again I know there’s been some frustration externally, and it has been internal as well.

“We’ve been frustrated that we haven’t been as cohesive as we would have liked, and that we started the championship on a really flat note.

“And one of the great reminders for us is you get nothing back in a Test match. You can’t go and say ‘ah well we missed that opportunity, can we go and play it again tomorrow?’

“You get one window and you can’t just open it a little to let the breeze in, you’ve got to open it right up and get through it.

“So I think that’s what we showed a little bit more of today. It will give confidence, but we know what a challenge next week’s going to be anyway.

“We said all along this is a little bit similar to what we’ll have to contend with at the end of the year anyway, with a six-day turnaround from a team in blue to a team in red.

“It’s not something that we want to miss a beat with now. We want to keep building over these next six days if we can.

“And I’m sure the Welsh boys were sitting back with feet up watching and they will be very much primed for us next week.”

Ireland pinned France into their own 22 for almost the entire first-half in a stunning muscle-flexing turn, leaving Schmidt suitably impressed.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen in the last six years a team control a 40 minutes like we did in that first-half,” said Schmidt.

“We kept that pressure on, and to keep that pressure on four that 40 minutes spoke volumes about the energy and the intensity we brought to our game.

“We need the confidence as well, we need to get back on the front foot.

From where we were last time we sat in this room, it’s taken a while but there was a bit of our rhythm back today.

“But in six days’ time it becomes a whole different equation. Wales in Cardiff is always a complicated fixture for us.”

Rob Kearney pulled out of Sunday’s France clash at the last minute with a calf injury, but Schmidt expects the Leinster full-back to be fit to face Wales.

Robbie Henshaw is unlikely to recover from his dead leg in time however, leaving Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose the favourites to start in Cardiff.

“I think Rob Kearney will be a really good chance, he just had calf tightness yesterday,” said Schmidt.

“So I’d be surprised if Rob wasn’t training on Tuesday, or Wednesday, depending on when we next train. That will depend how the recovery goes, tomorrow and Tuesday.

“Robbie Henshaw would be less of a chance. Robbie is recovering but it’s slower than expected.

“That dead leg has just unfortunately lingered. It’s a long, long time ago since I played but I had one.

“And in some situations it’s almost impossible to get rid of it fast. You just have to let it recover in its own time.”

France captain Guilhem Guirado admitted Les Bleus paid the price for their poor first-half showing.

He said: “Ireland kept hold of the ball so well in the first-half they didn’t give us a chance to initiate anything.”

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