And that’s all, folks. Thank you for your company tonight. Congrats to Ireland and commiserations to Wales. You’d have to hope that Pivac’s men will put Georgia away next week. Italy v Scotland and England v Georgia will be coming up tomorrow. France v Fiji is postponed. Bring it on - or not - as the Covid cases may be. Bye!
Our match report from Paul Rees:
“A contest pockmarked by penalties and a lack of composure will have caused Ireland’s group rivals England few concerns. Ireland again showed an inability to react to the unexpected and were wasteful in possession while Wales, who slumped to a sixth successive defeat, showed spirit but still lacked an identity.”
Interesting thoughts from you all below about Wales’s problems. Of course it is not just about one man - but look at the strides France are making with Shaun Edwards as their defence coach. It’s true that the Welsh set-piece is malfunctioning, it’s true that they appear to lack ball carriers (or at least, those ball carriers are not getting the chance to cause damage with ball in hand on the front foot). But all their success under Gatland started from the fact that they defended so solidly. That is surely the platform that they need to get right. And the rest, up to a point, will look after itself.
In all the excitement I forgot to congratulate Big George North, who came off the bench in the second half, on his 100th cap for Wales. Well played sir.
Here is that final try, for James Lowe of Ireland. The final score of 32-9 was probably a fair reflection of Ireland’s superiority.
Sam Warburton in the Channel 4 studio: “Wales have to win against Georgia. You talk about ‘must-win’ games ... that is one. Get a ‘W’ and move on.”
There was zero reaction from players or coaches in the Channel 4 coverage, which seems a bit surprising, so I’ll see if I can find some via the magic of social media.
Thanks for all your emails.
Frazier Stroud: “Wales set pieces was atrocious today. Every time we got in any sort of promising position we lost on our own ball. On top of that we lacked any go forward or real ball carriers. Doesn’t matter how pretty the attacking play might be (it wasn’t even when we did have the ball really) if a team cant hold possession effectively for more than a couple of phases. Worrying as a Welsh fan.”
Daniel Farr: “Wales have an ageing team who have provided a lot of glory days, but some of them are now getting long in the tooth and may have lost some fight. I think Pivac needs to blood a few young hungry players and start them from the start of the next game.”
Dean Bainbridge: “Being of a certain age, Wales reminds me of the Welsh teams from around 1980 up until around 2000. That’s not a good thought, they were bloody awful.”
Robin Hazlehurst: “Not a Wales fan but they’re going nowhere without a solid platform up front. Scrum, line out and rucks have all let them down. Solution: scour South Africa for Welsh heritage Afrikaaners..?” Controversial!
Full-time! Ireland 32-9 Wales
Ireland are the victors in the first Autumn Nations Cup match. Wales rallied to some extent after the break but Andy Farrell’s men were just too strong in the end. Ireland have some very fluent attacking moves up their sleeves, a strong set-piece - and as Rob Kearney alluded to before the match, they are clearly trying to play a less structured game than they did in the Joe Schmidt era. They look happy to try things, to offload here and there and see where it takes them. But it is just not happening for Wales and Wayne Pivac is under a lot of pressure to rediscover some of the magic - and the steel - of the Warren Gatland era.
80 min: Try! Ireland 32-9 Wales (Lowe)
James Lowe, who has been excellent tonight, gets his first try for Ireland on his first start, diving over the line from close range following that attacking scrum and another fluent set move from the hosts, masterminded by their attack coach Mike Catt.
79 min: An attacking scrum for Ireland at the death. Can they turn the screw even further?
79 min: Thoughts, Wales fans? What is going wrong? Email me with your reaction.
78 min: There have been tonnes of late replacements but it all seems a bit pointless, certainly in terms of the result: Ireland are in full control, even if they have had a few more questions to answer in the second half.
76 min: On the field, Alun Wyn Jones looks deflated. On the microphone, Shane Williams sounds deflated. It is just not happening for Wales, and as if to underline that fact, Wyn Jones is smashed back in a double tackle as he tries to carry the ball over the gain line and build some late momentum for his team. He will be hurting physically and mentally having led Wales to six straight losses now. Big questions to answer for Wayne Pivac - although you would not have expected them to come here and win, they have been disappointing again.
72 min: Penalty! Ireland 25-9 Wales (Murray)
Surely that’s the game. “From that dominance Wales had in the first 20 minutes of the second half, they really haven’t converted that into points ... it’s looking like a sixth defeat in a row for them,” says Peter Stringer on Channel 4. It most certainly is.
70 min: Keith Earls comes on for Ireland, replacing Robbie Henshaw. Will Connors also comes on for Josh van der Flier and for Wales, Aaron Wainwright comes on for Faletau. Meanwhile Ireland have another penalty, and this would make it 15-point game with less than 10 mins to play. Murray to kick from outside the 22.
67 min: Penalty! Ireland 22-9 Wales (Murray)
The Ireland scrum-half, who has just come on, slots a kick for goal impressively. The fly-half Callum Sheedy of Bristol Bears comes on for his first cap, replacing Dan Biggar. “He’s a much more attacking 10,” confirms Shane Williams on commentary.
64 min: Rowlands, Elias, Francis, Gareth and Jonathan Davies are off for Wales with Ball, Dee, Lee, Williams and North on. Conor Murray has just come on for Ireland, replacing Burns who looks to have picked up an injury. Beirne is also on for Roux plus Bealham for Porter and Heffernan for Kelleher. Ireland look too together and too strong to surrender this 10-point lead, even if they have been put under much more pressure in this second half.
60 min: George North is on for Wales, as is Lloyd Williams. There have been other replacements but I have to be honest, I can’t find the relevant info on the Autumn Nations Cup website ... It’s 19-9 to Ireland as we enter the final quarter of the match. Will see if I can confirm all the replacements.
56 min: Wales create, and sustain, one of their best attacks of the match, working the ball right then left, making inroads towards the Irish 22. The No 7 Tipuric is lurking out on the wing and storms into the 22 ... Wales get the penalty for a high tackle.
54 min: Penalty! Ireland 19-9 Wales (Burns)
The gap is back to 10, thanks to more pressure from Ireland, and more indiscipline from Wales. Ireland look more than capable of keeping the scoreboard ticking over here. It is going to take something special for Wales to win this.
52 min: Ireland are nearly over for another try in the right-hand corner! But a superb tackle by Faletau gets them out of jail. Ireland have a scrum just five metres out. They work through several phases in the Wales 22, again Gibson-Park looking bright and recycling the ball speedily and keeping the Wales defence honest. But it’s turned over in the end and Wales can clear.
50 min: Penalty! Ireland 16-9 Wales
Halfpenny reduces the arrears with another good kick. Now it’s a converted try between the sides.
49 min: Wales are at least asking some questions that perhaps they weren’t in the first half. James Lowe tidies up a clever kick by Gareth Davies, and after Liam Williams tackles him, Wales win a penalty.
47 min: Halfpenny strikes the penalty sweetly from halfway but it drops just short. Still the 10-point lead for Ireland as we approach the final 30 minutes of the match. Another penalty for Wales comes now and they choose to kick for the corner ... but they miss touch!
44 min: A superb attacking platform for Wales disintegrates as Ireland win the penalty at the scrum. Pivac and co will be disappointed, and maybe furious, and maybe both with that outcome. But they win another penalty, on halfway, which Halfpenny will have a crack at.
41 min: Wales immediately win a penalty at the breakdown. Biggar kicks for the corner. Attacking line-out for Wales. But again, Wales don’t execute well enough, and the attacking move breaks down as a pass goes astray. They do have the put-in at the scrum, though.
A spot of half-time reading for you here:
Stuart Hogg urges Scotland’s rugby side to build on feelgood factor
Plus! Joseph and Itoje in the spotlight as England begin World Cup evolution
Half-time! Ireland 16-6 Wales
Welsh ill-discipline and some smooth attacking phases from Ireland - combined with a very strong set-piece - have allowed the hosts to take firm control of this match. Wales don’t look themselves in attack either, and Alun Wyn Jones and Wayne Pivac need to have a few words at half-time. It’s hard to see them getting back into it from here, Ireland look the better team, but with Sexton off injured perhaps there is hope for Wales to end their run of five straight losses. Back shortly.
39 min: Are Ireland over, in the corner, for the second try of the match? It looks like they might be ... the ref thinks scrum five but the TMO is having a look. The ball fell to earth from a line-out, but the question is, was it an Irish knock-on or a Welsh hand knocking it back? It’s no try! Andrew Porter was diving over the try-line and attempting to ground the bouncing ball, but he didn’t manage to get it down.
Speaking of which, Robin Hazlehurst emails: “Doesn’t Quin Roux look like Eben Etzebeth’s murderous brother? Not like Etzebeth doesn’t look scary.... wouldn’t Hollywood love to have them...”
36 min: Penalty! Ireland 16-6 Wales
The Ulster fly-half Burns slots his first points for Ireland. This constant stream of penalties is making things very hard for Pivac’s Wales.
34 min: Ireland’s set-piece has been operating well, especially at scrum time, and their structured attacking play from set-pieces has also been causing Wales a lot of problems. The hosts get the shove on at a scrum on their right wing, and spin the ball out to the left in double quick time. It looks like it might be try time, but Josh Adams manages to cover, only for Rhys Carre to be penalised for offside.
30 min: Penalty! Ireland 13-6 Wales (Halfpenny)
Wales claw back another three points thanks to the trusty boot of their experienced full-back, who sends over a kick from longer range than his first.
29 min: Ireland No 10 Sexton has gone off injured - looks like he may have a hamstring problem - and Billy Burns comes on for his first cap.
27 min: Penalty! Ireland 13-3 Wales (Sexton)
A clever grubber kick in midfield and a good chase by the Irish leads to another penalty in a central position after Jonathan Davies fails to tidy up the loose ball. This is starting to look a bit ominous for Wales and they need to get a foothold back in this match.
23 min: Try! Ireland 10-3 Wales (Roux)
After that attacking scrum, a succession of pick-and-gos from the Irish pack proves too much for Wales. Roux, who wasn’t starting until the late withdrawal of Iain Henderson, scores the try from close range, flopping over among a pile of bodies. The Ireland coaching team are jubilant up in the stands. Sexton adds the conversion.
23 min: From the resulting scrum, it’s scrappy ball for Gibson-Park at the base ... but then they’re over!
19 min: It’s end-to-end stuff and now it’s Ireland’s turn to threaten again. James Lowe storms into the Welsh 22 and then pulls off a crafty off-load to Sexton. Wales have to scramble desperately to get back in shape, they cough up a penalty, and Ireland choose to take the scrum five metres from the Welsh line.
18 min: Penalty! Ireland 3-3 Wales (Halfpenny)
It’s all square - and after very nearly seeing his side fall two scores behind, Pivac will be relieved sitting up in the stands right now.
17 min: Now Wales have a bash - they mount a dangerous attack and get into the Irish 22 with the ball in hand for the first time. Robbie Henshaw is penalised for not releasing his opponent player after a tackle. Sexton disagrees - “That’s my view, maybe I’m wrong,” says the referee, but it’s an easy penalty for Wales.
13 min: Well prompted by the scrum-half Gibson-Park, Ireland are building some good attacking continuity. They advance through the 22 and all the way to the Welsh try-line with a mixture of smart off-loading and then a few strong carries from the forwards in a multi-phase attack. But Ireland are penalised, I think for going off their feet at the ruck, and Wales can breath again.
10 min: Penalty! Ireland 3-0 Wales (Sexton)
Ireland get well on top at the first scrum of the match, win a penalty and kick for the corner, but then another attacking scrum results after the line-out wasn’t thrown straight. The passage of play ends with Sexton sending a straightforward penalty over from around the 22. From the sideline, Peter Stringer says it’s a physical battle out there and Wales are trying to ‘wrong a few rights’. I think he means the other way around.
6 min: Ireland stream down the left wing after Jamison Gibson-Park serves the ball up nicely for an on-rushing Sexton, who embarks on a trademark curving run trying to find a gap on the outside of the defensive cover. Sexton throws a pass to the outside, where James Lowe can’t gather it, as the ball is just ahead of him. Then there is another punch-up involving a few of the backs. “That’s the last one - next time, two players off,” says the referee Mathieu Raynal to the two captains. It’s certainly pretty spicy early on.
5 min: A good early platform for Wales. Dan Biggar kicks a penalty for touch and the visitors have an attacking line-out, which they get wrong. But as it breaks down there is a big flare-up between Peter O’Mahony of Ireland and Wyn Jones. Lots of pushing, shoving and yanking of jerseys and a word from the referee ...
First half kick-off!
Wales start the match and Taulupe Faletau puts in a good chase from the kick-off, but Ireland clear their lines and James Lowe produces a good early tackle after chasing the kick down.
Contrary to the original Ireland line-up, Jacob Stockdale and lock Iain Henderson were both ruled out a little earlier today. Stockdale has a calf problem. Hugo Keenan is playing at No 15 as a result, while Quinn Roux starts in the second row.
The teams are on the pitch at the Aviva Stadium. We’re less than five minutes from kick-off, but before that, we’ll have an anti-racism message and now the national anthems.
Alun Wyn Jones belts out the Welsh anthem in typically committed fashion. It may not be the World Cup, it may not be the Six Nations, and they find themselves in an empty Aviva Stadium - but the players look up for this.
What’s this Autumn Nations Cup malarkey going to be like, then? A masterstroke or a damp squib? The cancellation of France v Fiji is hardly what you’d want on the first weekend - but let’s hope tonight a belter.
Here is Robert Kitson on how the teams are shaping up (at least until the latest outbreak of Covid-19):
Andy Farrell speaks to Channel 4: “It’s a great competition for us to make sure we understand what we’re doing as a group ... and it is about the group ... the core lads here in this squad are going to take us forward in the here and now, and in the medium and long-term as well, so we’ve got to keep growing as a group and that’s what we intend to do over this next month.
Wayne Pivac: “The pressure’s coming internally from within the group. We obviously aren’t satisfied with the performances we’ve put out and we have worked very hard to make sure we improve ... certainly it’s not easy when someone [defence coach Byron Hayward] leaves the group ... certainly we want to make sure that we step it up tonight.”
And Rob Kearney on pundit duty for Channel 4: “One of the criticisms of the Joe Schmidt era is that the team looked a little bit devoid of ideas after three or four phases ... and I know that’s something Andy Farrell trying to instil in the team: try to get the ball to the edges a bit more, and ensure that the team are comfortable attacking after nine or 10 phases.”
Andy Farrell makes seven changes to the Ireland side that lost to France a couple of weeks ago. The Leinster wing James Lowe wins his first cap and the scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park replaces Conor Murray to win his third cap.
Peter O’Mahony, Iain Henderson and Josh van der Flier return with Chris Farrell replacing Bundee Aki in the centres. The 22-year-old hooker Rónan Kelleher will start a Test for the first time with the uncapped Ulster fly-half Billy Burns on the bench.
For Wales and Wayne Pivac, Justin Tipuric is the only change to the side that lost to Scotland. The Bristol fly-half Callum Sheedy is in the squad for the first time, while George North will win his 100th cap as and when he comes off the replacements’ bench.
Ireland: H. Keenan, A. Conway, C. Farrell, R. Henshaw, J. Lowe, J. Sexton, J. Gibson-Park; E. Byrne, R. Kelleher, A. Porter, Q Roux, J. Ryan, P. O’Mahony, J. van der Flier, C. Doris. Replacements: D. Heffernan, E. Byrne, F. Bealham, T. Beirne, W. Connors, C. Murray, B. Burns, K. Earls.
Wales: L. Halfpenny; L. Williams, J. Davies, O. Watkin, J. Adams; D. Biggar, G. Davies; R. Carre, R. Elias, T. Francis, W. Rowlands, A. W. Jones, S. Lewis-Hughes, J. Tipuric, T. Faletau. Replacements: E. Dee, W. Jones, S. Lee, J. Ball, A. Wainwright, L. Williams, C. Sheedy, G. North.
A bit of breaking news is that France v Fiji, which was due to take place on Sunday, has been cancelled after an outbreak of Covid-19 in the Fiji squad. Not what you’d call the perfect start of this new competition, which was conceived as a way to try and claw back some of the financial losses that coronavirus has already caused.
“It is when things are not going well, when you are losing and having to get back up every day and put on a brave face, that you know who your friends are.”
Geordan Murphy there, reflecting on his abrupt departure from the director of rugby role at Leicester, which was announced earlier today. The Wales coach, Wayne Pivac, can doubtless relate to Murphy’s words. The New Zealander has been in charge for less than a year and before this evening’s Autumn Nations Cup curtain-raiser Wales are in crisis after five straight defeats. Pivac is doubtless finding out who his friends are, day by day, but what he really needs is a win. Last time out, their first home defeat by Scotland in 18 years prompted the dismissal of the defence coach Byron Hayward. Pivac admitted that it all looked ‘a mess’ and said earlier this week: “We have not been flash in defence or attack and need to show an improvement. We believe we can turn this around.”
But can they turn it around in Dublin? Ireland ended up finishing third in the Covid-19-hit Six Nations following a tournament-closing defeat by France in Paris. They were ultimately disappointing that night, even if losing away from home to a resurgent and dangerous France side was no disgrace. Andy Farrell’s Ireland have a couple of new faces to integrate, with the New Zealand-born pair James Lowe and Jamison Gibson-Park making their debuts this evening, and will be confident of cranking the pressure up another notch on Pivac with a victory to kick off their Autumn Nations Cup campaign.
Full team news, pre-match reading and much more coming right up ...