Ireland face Six Nations opener in Cardiff

Perfect conditions greeted RBS 6 Nations favourites Ireland as they launched they title challenge with a tricky opener at the Millennium Stadium.

Perfect conditions greeted RBS 6 Nations favourites Ireland as they launched they title challenge with a tricky opener at the Millennium Stadium.

The Triple Crown holders were expected to improve on last year when they finished championship runners-up but Wales in Cardiff was a tricky first hurdle.

Their last visit to the Welsh capital ended in a dramatic failure with a 32-20 defeat leaving their 2005 title aspirations in tatters on the final day of the tournament.

Simon Easterby was selected ahead of autumn star Neil Best in the back row while Girvan Dempsey was preferred to Geordan Murphy in two tight selection calls.

Wales’ chances of making a successful start to the Six Nations had been hampered by a succession of injuries and suspension to the inspirational Gareth Thomas.

In a controversial move, Wales coach Gareth Jenkins left Ospreys star Gavin Henson out of the entire matchday 22, citing poor form as the reason for his exclusion.

Wales: K. Morgan, Luscombe, Robinson, Hook, Czekaj, S. Jones, Peel, Jenkins, R. Thomas, Horsman, A. Jones, Gough, Popham, M. Williams, R. Jones.

Replacements: Rees, D. Jones, Sidoli, G. Thomas, Phillips, Sweeney, Brew.

Ireland: Dempsey, Trimble, B. O’Driscoll, D’Arcy, Hickie, O’Gara, Stringer, Horan, R. Best, Hayes, O’Callaghan, O’Connell, Easterby, D. Wallace, Leamy.

Replacements: Flannery, S. Best, N. Best, M. O’Driscoll, Boss, P. Wallace, G. Murphy.

Referee: Kelvin Deaker (New Zealand)

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