Tommy Bowe expects Ireland to deliver their best display of the year in Cardiff this weekend. The former winger, who scored a try when Ireland won the Grand Slam there in 2009, believes Joe Schmidt’s men will travel to Wales with none of the pressure the hosts are feeling.
Warren Gatland’s men are chasing an unlikely Slam after seeing off France, Italy, England and Scotland with mixed performances.
“It takes a lot of pressure off Ireland that they’re going over there as underdogs, with no expectancy, and I think this will be the biggest performance of the Six Nations,” Bowe said. “All of a sudden the whole questioning after that England game ... if we finish second after a big performance, all of a sudden confidence is high again, and we’re looking good for the World Cup again,” he added.
Bowe predicts a close game, with Ireland edging it by two points, and expects a huge battle between Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland — with the Ireland coach looking for his first win over Wales in Cardiff, and Gatland looking to round off his Six Nations involvement with a third Slam.
“Joe is coming up against a coach who is similar in Warren Gatland, it is his last Six Nations game as well — he has won two Grand Slams and a number of Six Nations too,” Bowe said. “There has always been a huge rivalry between them as coaches, in terms of Ireland and Wales. That’s the big battle I’m looking forward to this weekend. “It is extra special because it’s the last Six Nations game for both as coaches.
“In terms of the bragging rights, it’s three apiece with a draw. Who is going to finish on the upper hand? Wales are odds on favourites, at a ground where few visiting teams come out on top. Bowe did in 2009, but the Cardiff venue has been home to good — and bad — memories for the Monaghan man.
“Obviously ‘09 was an incredible memory, that match was one I will never forget but I’ve had a couple of bad days there as well. The one Mike Phillips keeps reminding me of when the ball got kicked into touch ... I turned around and they found another ball.
“He keeps sending me the picture of him handing me off in the corner. Then there was my last ever game for Ireland two years ago when I came onto the pitch for 40 seconds and my sister wondered whether they brought me onto the pitch just to wave to the crowd. Sixteen months before that was the World Cup quarter-final where I was taken off on the same stretcher with the same doctor to the same medical room on another disappointing day.
“There are mixed feelings about the Principality Stadium. But, it is probably my favourite stadium to play in away from home, in terms of atmosphere.”