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Wales vs Ireland LIVE rugby: Six Nations 2023 result and reaction as Van der Flier secures bonus point win

Wales host Ireland in a mouthwatering 2023 Six Nations opener in Cardiff this afternoon.

The Principality Stadium will be rocking as Wales look to quickly banish a nightmare 2022, which saw Wayne Pivac sacked after losses to Georgia and Italy.

The Irish will be bullish though, their sensational form under Andy Farrell has them primed for a historic year with home games to come in the Six Nations against France and England as we count down to the World Cup in September.

“Last week, there was only one topic of discussion and that was understandable,” Gatland said, referencing the scandal engulfing the Welsh Rugby Union following allegations of sexism, bullying and racism made in a scathing TV documentary. “This week, the message to the players is we have a test match to focus on. Rugby has been the only talking point and the players have been great in terms of that. It has been a bit of a challenge, but our whole focus is on Saturday.”

Follow for live updates and build-up to a huge day of rugby:

Six Nations 2023: Wales vs Ireland

  • Six Nations brings timely opportunity for rugby to sidestep issues and showcase excitement

  • Wales and Ireland fans greet team buses outside Principality Stadium in Cardiff

  • 3’ TRY IRELAND! An early score for Doris and Sexton adds the extras (WAL 0-7 IRE)

  • 9’ TRY IRELAND! Ryan with another for the visitors’ power game after smart work from Bealham (WAL 0-14 IRE)

  • 21’ TRY IRELAND! Lowe makes the interception and then gallops away to finish, stunning (WAL 3-24 IRE)

  • 24’ MISSED CHANCE WALES! Immense Irish defence as Biggar is hauled down with the line in sight (WAL 3-24 IRE)

  • 46’ TRY WALES! Liam Williams with lovely hands and the finish, game on? (WAL 10-27 IRE)

  • 55’ TMO REVIEW: Williams takes a hit from Henderson, it’s just a penalty though (WAL 10-27 IRE)

  • 64’ YELLOW CARD: Williams is sent to the sin bin after leaving his shoulder on Liam Williams’ shoulder in rather close proximity to Sexton’s newly repaired cheekbone (WAL 10-27 IRE)

England vs Scotland

16:17 , Harry Latham-Coyle

It’s an overcast evening at Twickeham, though it’s far from unpleasant, the mercury nudging up towards ten degrees and no obvious threat of any of the damp stuff in the heavens. There’s been a real crackle of anticipation around the place this afternoon, the England fans energised by their new head coach and the travelling Scottish support hopeful they can continue their fine recent run against the Auld Enemy.

Six Nations 2023: Ken Owens reacts to Wales defeat to Ireland

16:17 , Jack Rathborn

Ken Owens: “Obviously disappointment, we lacked discipline and accuracy. First half put us under pressure, we left a couple of scores out there.

“We showed character in the second half. We were up against the best team in the world today, they punished us, we're a work in progress. We need to learn quickly, analyse it, use the cliches, if you don't win collisions, you'll be on the back foot.

“I think that may be down to, we had clarity in the week, learning and getting used to each other. It’s a work in progress, stick at it and feel in the coming weeks those chances will stick.”

Six Nations 2023: Hugo Keenan picks up player of the match after inspiring Ireland win

16:11 , Jack Rathborn

Player of the match Hugo Keenan: “We came out and started well, which is really important, we knew the crowd would be behind them. We slipped off in the second half, but we’re delighted to get that bonus point win.

“These are the occasions you want to be a part of, it’s a serious place to come. Wales put it up to us. In that transition phase, but they’re a serious side.

“We’re taking it game by game, focusing one game at a time.

“There’s plenty in that second half to work on, we’re review it, big game next week again.”

F/T: Wales 10-34 Ireland

16:10 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Comprehensive. Ireland may not have really got going in the second half but all of the damage - and there was plenty of damage - was done in a commanding first half that put the game almost out of sight.

Wales will rue their errors but they were beaten by a far better side who made their superiority entirely clear. The first step towards a Grand Slam?

FULL TIME! WALES 10-34 IRELAND

16:09 , Harry Latham-Coyle

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Wales 10-34 Ireland, 80 minutes

16:08 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Into the final knockings of this opening Six Nations contest now, with Ireland earning another penalty after Wales play aimlessly.

Mack Hansen gathers...but Alex Cuthbert is across to haul him into touch! Nearly a score with the final play as Ross Byrne finds his stooping wing with a crossfield kick, but Hansen had to slow to ensure secure collection, allowing Cuthbert the chance to drive him out.

Wales 10-34 Ireland, 78 minutes

16:05 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Two peeps of the whistle as Ireland first put on too much pressure for Karl Dickson’s liking and then rile the referee with an unneccessary quip of disapproval.

Wales 10-34 Ireland, 75 minutes

16:03 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Liam Williams returns from the naughty step with Wales again defending inside their own half.

Ireland play off the top of a lineout, Garry Ringrose and Bundee Aki working in terrific tandem off Ross Byrne. Welsh hands rip the ball forwards - Ireland scrum.

TRY! Wales 10-34 IRELAND (Josh van der Flier try, 73 minutes)

15:59 , Harry Latham-Coyle

There’s the bonus point! You can throw a blanket over the Welsh forwards as they attempt to repair struggling lungs around the back of a ruck, which means Craig Casey’s ten-yard pass to Josh van der Flier puts the flanker through a great gorge. Van der Flier flops beneath the posts; Ross Byrne converts and Ireland will be off to a perfect Six Nations start.

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 72 minutes

15:59 , Harry Latham-Coyle

And here come Ireland in full pomp, ball carried on in great green crush. Advantage coming, but they surely won’t require it...

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 70 minutes

15:58 , Harry Latham-Coyle

The two sides trade periods of phase play either side of halfway, Wales’ 14 working niftily but unable to make a telling burst, Ireland looking rather more threatening against an under-manned, tiring Welsh defence after Bundee Aki wins a turnover.

Dan Sheehan goes again on one of his merry meanders up the right touchline

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 68 minutes

15:56 , Harry Latham-Coyle

But for all Wales’ huffing and puffing since the restart, they still only have that single score to show for their efforts after half time. Ireland hold up a carrier to win turnover ball.

An effective afternoon from Johnny Sexton, who checks his face for damage as he leaves the field. Fellow Leinsterman Ross Byrne is his appointed deputy for this tournament and on at fly half.

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 67 minutes

15:54 , Harry Latham-Coyle

But that’s good fight from Wales, first heaving hard at the scrum to destabilise Craig Casey at the base and then drawing a holding on penalty at the ruck.

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 66 minutes

15:53 , Harry Latham-Coyle

At half time it felt like Ireland were charging towards a bonus point win, but they are still seeking that fourth try. Rio Dyer is deemed to have made a proper attempt to catch the ball as he tries to intercept a pass with outstretched arm - a crucial intervention from the wing, who had left plenty of space outside him.

YELLOW CARD! Liam Williams is sent to the sin bin (Wales 10-27 Ireland, 65 minutes)

15:52 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Now, what’s Tom Foley spotted? Ah, that’ll do it - Liam Williams’ shoulder in rather close proximity to Johnny Sexton’s newly repaired cheekbone. It’s high, certainly, but there’s a wrap and a passive tackle from the full back, which means it will be yellow rather than red. Wales will play the next ten minutes with 14.

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 65 minutes

15:50 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Another Welsh knock-on ends a promising right-ward exploration.

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 64 minutes

15:48 , Harry Latham-Coyle

It matters not, though, as Ireland make a mess of the Welsh assembly at the back of a maul.

Six Nations 2023: Wales 10-27 Ireland

15:48 , Jack Rathborn

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Wales 10-27 Ireland, 63 minutes

15:47 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Rio Dyer has grown into this game, producing a threatening weave off his left wing and into the Welsh 22. But Bundee Aki jackals strongly to win Ireland a timely penalty near their own line.

Or not! Penalty reversed - Aki’s position was strengthened by the fact that he had tackled George North off the ball beforehand, denying Wales of a clearer for the resulting ruck. Aki is penalised as Johnny Sexton stares daggers at referee Karl Dickson - the Ireland captain is perplexed but that looks the right call.

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 61 minutes

15:45 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Welsh alterations, with two of their most experienced forwards taking leave. Ken Owens and Alun Wyn Jones’ afternoons are over. Scott Baldwin is back in the Six Nations fray for the first time in a long while at hooker, while Daffyd Jenkins has many more of these afternoons to come - the lock is a prospect of incredible potential.

Hugo Keenan cooly watches a kick hop over his own line, certain in his belief that it will get there in time for him to ground before the arrival of an onrushing Josh Adams. He’s just about right.

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 60 minutes

15:43 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Finlay Bealham, Stuart McCloskey and Peter O’Mahony depart for Ireland; on come Tom O’Toole, Bundee Aki and Jack Conan.

O’Toole and Conan immediately lend their mass to a rumble. The maul moves well initially before Andrew Porter ploughs a lone furrow away from it, and replacement Welsh loosehead Rhys Carre earns a holding on penalty.

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 59 minutes

15:42 , Harry Latham-Coyle

The Welsh defence has been much better since the interval, denying Ireland quick ball and making their tackles. A prolonged set on the fringes of their own 22 sees the hosts driving Ireland back, George North hurrying out of the line to catch Garry Ringrose out the back.

But in phase eleven, Wales are offside. Dan Sheehan threatens to make the most of a loose ball with an effortless acceleration up the right, but the hooker is eventually squeezed out.

Back for the penalty. Johnny Sexton pokes towards the corner.

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 58 minutes

15:40 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Bundee Aki is warming himself as Ireland ready a centre replacement. On the field, the men in green earn another penalty near halfway.

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Wales 10-27 Ireland, 56 minutes

15:38 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Wales spill in midfield after the lineout! Oh, with a little more accuracy today they might be right in the contest.

Ireland try a crossfield kick rather than seeking territory. Rio Dyer commits to the catch...and grabs it well ahead of the Irish chaser. Mack Hansen chops him at the knees, but a chance for Wales to reload in the Ireland 22...

Or not - a poor pass, and Ireland clear more conclusively.

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 55 minutes

15:36 , Harry Latham-Coyle

It’s clumsy rather than nasty from Henderson, who hasn’t changed his line to clatter in to Williams, but has made rather more contact than he needed to. Just a penalty.

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 55 minutes

15:35 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Changes for both teams - Tommy Reffell is on in the Welsh back row and Iain Henderson replaces Tadhg Beirne in the Irish engine room.

Henderson might be in immediate trouble - he jumps in a vauge attempt to try and charge down Liam Williams’ up-and-under, adn then rather clumsily crashes into the Wales full back. TMO Tom Foley will review the footage.

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 54 minutes

15:34 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Almost a thing of Welsh beauty! Liam Williams has more luck with an extravagant counter-attacking dance, skipping away from Garry Ringrose, evading Tadhg Beirne, and putting his foot down to burst free of desperate Irish limbs. He offloads for Justin Tipuric, who arcs towards the left and lifts an ambitious pass for Rio Dyer. Dyer is forced to leap in an attempt to corral it, but loses his footing as he comes back down. He’s powerless as he topples into touch.

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 53 minutes

15:32 , Harry Latham-Coyle

James Lowe’s booming left boot is utilised to clear Irish lines, and the wing kicks long again after Wales return with a punt of their own.

Lowe’s kick finds space beyond Liam Williams, who saunters back and stoops to his shoelaces, beating a defender but soon felled.

Hugo Keenan takes Tomos Williams’ box kick with typical composure.

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 51 minutes

15:30 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Frustrated slaps of thighs in the Welsh coaching box - another error with line in sight! Ireland are scrambling around the corner to cover after a forthright carry, but the ball spills loose on the floor, and Ireland earn another reprieve.

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 49 minutes

15:29 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Is momentum just beginning to swing? Ireland knock on and then are penalised for crossing.

Wales 10-27 Ireland, 47 minutes

15:26 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Sighs of frustration from the home crowd - that’s a real momentum killer. The penalty is kicked into the Ireland 22 but Ken Owens’ dart drifts off-line.

The errant throw is compounded by a scrum penalty against Dillon Lewis, who retreats with a rueful shake of the head.

TRY! WALES 10-27 Ireland (Liam Williams try, 46 minutes)

15:22 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Smart hands and an easy run in for Liam Williams!

That’s the clinical edge Wales lacked in the first half. The lineout was sharp in thought and execution, and the ball clean thereafter. With Ireland spread, Williams injects himself at the right time after a good pull-back pass at the line and over he goes.

Andrew Porter then messes around unneccesarily after Williams has scored. Wales will have a penalty to restart the game after Dan Biggar converts.

Wales 3-27 Ireland, 45 minutes

15:22 , Harry Latham-Coyle

A funky move to the front as Ken Owens pops a short one to a grounded catcher...

Wales 3-27 Ireland, 44 minutes

15:21 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Andrew Porter is then offside in his own 22. Ken Owens and Alun Wyn Jones have a chat, old captain advising new to opt for the corner. Owens asks Dan Biggar to oblige; the fly half does.

Wales 3-27 Ireland, 43 minutes

15:20 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Oomph! That is a proper tackle! Garry Ringrose takes great chunks out of Dan Biggar’s midriff as the Wales fly-half releases a pass, perfectly legal, perfectly clean and perfectly directed. A winder Biggar sucks in the air as he climbs gingerly to his feet. Welsh penalty for a separate infringement.

Wales 3-27 Ireland, 41 minutes

15:18 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Tentative exchanges of box kicks to open the second half, with both sides screening their catchers well. Dillon Lewis is on for Tomas Francis in the Welsh front row.

Second half

15:17 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Right, the players are back out there, Welsh ears no doubt ringing. Can the hosts produce a better second half? Back underway.

H/T: Wales 3-27 Ireland

15:05 , Harry Latham-Coyle

A half to rather puncture any Welsh optimism about an immediate improvement under Warren Gatland. Ireland have been outstanding, with the home side struggling to quell their carries or slow their ball, and throw in a handful of missed Wales chances and you get a half of supreme dominance. Three tries in the first 40 minutes - a perfect start to Ireland’s championship pursuit.

HALF TIME! WALES 3-27 IRELAND

15:01 , Harry Latham-Coyle

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Wales 3-27 Ireland, 42 minutes

15:01 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Ken Owens fails to hit his hoisted option at the lineout. Dan Sheehan can end the half if he wishes, but skews his kick infield, granting Wales a last chance...

Ah, there might be a proper opportunity here - Dan Biggar lifts one for himself and claims in an outstanding fashion. The line is broken, and here come the hosts, Jac Morgan and Justin Tipuric in tandem up the touchline. Morgan chips infield for his fellow flanker...but Ireland are back in good (and significantly swifter) number to bring the half to a close.

Wales 3-27 Ireland, 41 minutes

14:59 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Circus skills from Mack Hansen, taking a high kick on the third juggle.

Wales perform their aerial duties less dramatically, and soon earn a penalty near the right touchline as Josh Adams takes a tunble over a sliding Andrew Porter. One last chance deep in the Irish half.

Wales 3-27 Ireland, 39 minutes

14:58 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Taulupe Faletau fails to properly get a handle on the ball as he tries to gather a slightly errant pass at close to full tilt. A blind flick from Justin Tipuric towards his back row colleague, and Faletau raises a hand of apology to his teammates for his loose take.

NO TRY! Wales 3-27 Ireland, 38 minutes

14:56 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Karl Dickson should have backed himself - the referee has got it spot on, Jac MOrgan unable to force the ball to floor as Ireland hold on. Goalline drop out - that’s two real chances missed by the hosts.

Wales 3-27 Ireland, 37 minutes

14:55 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Another allows Wales to march up to the Irish 22.

Can they take their chance this time? George North fancies a rare first half rumble, hitting a delicious line back against the grain and thumping to five metres out.

Are they over? Karl Dickson says no on his first look but the referee soon sends it upstairs for further inspection...

Wales 3-27 Ireland, 36 minutes

14:53 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Owens’ commands do the trick - Gareth Thomas forces Finlay Bealham to floor.

Wales 3-27 Ireland, 34 minutes

14:52 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Knocked on with the line in sight! A seemingly inexorable march towards the line from Ireland, first mauling to suck the bodies in and then following their nine’s lead as Conor Murray makes muscular metres around the corner.

Murray is back doing more conventional scrum half things and pops across to Caelan Doris, who takes contact with two burly Welshmen and drops the ball. Ken Owens gathers the troops for a stern word as he prepares for the scrum.

Six Nations 2023: Wales 3-27 Ireland, 34 minutes

14:52 , Jack Rathborn

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Wales 3-27 Ireland, 32 minutes

14:49 , Harry Latham-Coyle

You wonder if, at some point, Karl Dickson’s arm may start to become weary, such is the regularity with which it is aloft with an Irish cant. Adam Beard makes a mess of a ruck illegally. Ireland return to the Welsh 22.

Wales 3-27 Ireland, 30 minutes

14:48 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Stuart McCloskey comes a rumbling on to a pass and swats away a would-be tackler. But at last, relief for Wales - a breakdown penalty their way in the right corner after Ireland kick towards it! Much needed.

Wales 3-27 Ireland, 29 minutes

14:45 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Joe Hawkins has been the lone bright spot so far for Wales, the young centre rushing forward well to gather a little chip beyond the advancing Irish line. That’s loose, though, offloading unneccessarily and finding only Sexton’s welcoming paws.

Ireland win back the ball in the air and here they come again!

PENALTY! Wales 3-27 IRELAND (Johnny Sexton penalty, 28 minutes)

14:44 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Warren Gatland wears a face of thunder. Has he sold the house in New Zealand yet?

Through fly another three points from the boot of the Irish captain.

Wales 3-24 Ireland, 26 minutes

14:43 , Harry Latham-Coyle

This is threatening to get out of hand. Ken Owens and Taulupe Faletau, two wise old veterans have seen pretty much everything, share a gormless look as a failure to roll away draws Karl Dickson’s latest blast on the ACME.

Wales 3-24 Ireland, 24 minutes

14:42 , Jack Rathborn

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Wales 3-24 Ireland, 26 minutes

14:42 , Harry Latham-Coyle

A seventh penalty against Wales follows after the lineout. Ireland have only conceded one, which just about sums up a dominant first half so far.

Wales 3-24 Ireland, 24 minutes

14:41 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Can Wales stop the rot? Here’s a chance, a scrum deep in the Irish 22.

Up the guts to Joe Hawkins, who punctures a great hole! Ireland look narrow in defence, Dan Biggar hops to the outside - but he’s hauled down, and in pour the Irish bodies to occupy the ruck. Karl Dickson whistles...penalty Ireland! An opportunity missed by Wales.

TRY! Wales 3-24 IRELAND (James Lowe try, 21 minutes)

14:36 , Jack Rathborn

From bad to worse for Wales! James Lowe plucks a pass out of the air and he’s away at a canter!

Oh, it had been building nicely for Wales, manipulating the Irish defence and beginning to soften the edges. There’s a man overlap as Dan Biggar passes from left to right in the wider confines, but Lowe has the play read, rushing up to snatch Biggar’s ball in front of Liam Williams, who drops, dejected, to a knee.

Lowe puts his foot down and there’s no catching him. Seven more to the Irish tally.

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PENALTY! Wales 3-17 IRELAND (Johnny Sexton penalty, 19 minutes)

14:35 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Three more from Johnny Sexton’s right boot, the fly half popping it through from just left of centre.

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Wales 3-14 Ireland, 18 minutes

14:34 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Irish scrum ascendancy doesn’t please the home crowd. Penalty to the visitors.

Wales 3-14 Ireland, 16 minutes

14:33 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Wales underway, but immediately back under pressure. A penalty on their own ten-metre allows an Irish return to the red area, and then Liam Williams (who is having a busy opening quarter) knocks on while contesting near his own line. More than two-thirds of Ireland’s rucks so far have been under the three-second quick ball threshold - Wales really must find methods of slowing it.

PENALTY! WALES 3-14 Ireland (Dan Biggar penalty, 15 minutes)

14:31 , Harry Latham-Coyle

A simple starter and much needed points for Wales.

Wales 0-14 Ireland, 14 minutes

14:30 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Pressure on the Welsh scrum and Taulupe Faletau is hauled away from it, driven back some five yards by the Irish back row. But Ireland are soon pinged; Dan Biggar will put Wales on the board.

Wales 0-14 Ireland, 12 minutes

14:29 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Nearly a Welsh try from nowhere! A Johnny Sexton pass flies errant, seemingly from the reaching hand of Tomas Francis in the tackle, and Rio Dyer is alive to it, hacking ahead. He looks to be favourite to get to his second toe onwards, but Hugo Keenan shows remarkable speed to get back first.

Still, Wales will have a five-metre scrum. They need points, you’d think, to try and get into this contest a little.

Wales 0-14 Ireland, 11 minutes

14:27 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Ireland send up a great up-and-under, aiming to force an error from Liam Williams - safe and secure from the full back, claiming the mark inside his 22.

Wales 0-14 Ireland, 10 minutes

14:27 , Harry Latham-Coyle

The Welsh coaching box has been stunned into silence - this is a nightmare for the home side. They are penalised again soon after the restart.

TRY! Wales 0-14 IRELAND (James Ryan try, 9 minutes)

14:24 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Another! Wales have had no answer to the Irish power game so far, and though they halt the initial tap manouevre, the try seems certain to come. Finlay Bealham pops neatly to his right for the two towers of James Ryan and Beirne, who combine to bash through for a second score.

Johnny Sexton is accurate from the tee.

Wales 0-7 Ireland, 8 minutes

14:24 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Beirne is back on his feet soon enough, and Ireland will have the penalty. It’ll be a tap and go from the floor...

Wales 0-7 Ireland, 8 minutes

14:23 , Harry Latham-Coyle

To the outside wanders Hugo Keenan, and onwards Ireland go. Phases eight and nine are five metres out before Jac Morgan finally disrupts the speed of ball - but not before an infringement by a teammate. Ireland penalty on the five, but a wounded Tadhg Beirne is a concern.

Wales 0-7 Ireland, 7 minutes

14:22 , Jack Rathborn

Dan Sheehan hits his man at the tail, and Ireland fizz off the top. Garry Ringrose produces a pleasing pirouette, beating two defenders, and Sheehan skips by another.

A hearty charge from Andrew Porter, and suddenly Ireland are threatening again inside the Welsh 22.

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Wales 0-7 Ireland, 6 minutes

14:21 , Harry Latham-Coyle

What appetite do Ireland have to play on halfway with those Welsh scavengers about? Little, it seems - Conor Murray soon sets his caterpillar and boxes upfield, Liam Williams up well to claim.

Wales return in kind, with a competent gather from the Irish backfield. Three phases and to the air again goes Murray, getting underneath his kick slightly, but James Lowe gets to it regardless.

Not that it matters - there was an Irish advantage and Karl Dickson will bring them back for it. Johnny Sexton kicks into the Welsh half.

Wales 0-7 Ireland, 4 minutes

14:19 , Harry Latham-Coyle

A shake of the head from Warren Gatland - not the way he’d have liked to have started. Wales have possesion for the first time after Ireland clear the kick off, playing to the left and then right just inside the visitors’ half. Liam Williams explores the outside - to little avail. He’s bundled into touch.

TRY! Wales 0-7 IRELAND (Caelan Doris try, 3 minutes)

14:17 , Harry Latham-Coyle

And over they go! That’s some start for Ireland, a declaration of ominous intent. Wales simply couldn’t halt them, Conor Murray’s service clean and tidy and the forwards carrying punchily. Johnny Sexton’s inside ball sends James Ryan to within a metre and in the next phase Caelan Doris crashes to the line.

Sexton converts.

Wales 0-0 Ireland, 2 minutes

14:17 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Here they come, the great lumberers in green rushing around the corner. The pressure builds...

Wales 0-0 Ireland, 1 minute

14:16 , Harry Latham-Coyle

A long kick off from Sexton, pushing Wales back deep. Ireland kick again soon after, James Lowe prodding up the left touchline and forcing Liam Williams into a hasty retreat. Williams gathers and Wales are able to clear, but not far - Ireland lineout deep in Welsh territory.

Kick off!

14:15 , Jack Rathborn

Right, here we go. Karl Dickson of England is our referee, with Tom Foley the TMO.

A long blast on the whistle, and Johnny Sexton drops ball to boot - the 2023 Six Nations is underway!

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Farewell Eddie Butler

14:14 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Just before we get going, a moment to remember the man who provided the soundtrack to so many great Six Nations memories, the voice of the tournament for many. Eddie Butler loved days like these - he is now, more than ever, sadly missed, and it is lovely to hear that more than 700 people gathered in Abergavenny Market in his memory on Thursday. We’ll miss his deep, pleasing purr.

Anthems

14:12 , Jack Rathborn

It really is one of rugby’s great cathedrals, and never better than on a home Six Nations matchday. A great choir have gathered between the two teams beneath the closed roof, but first it is Ireland’s anthem, sung heartily by those in green - only an isolated few dotted here and there around the Principality Stadium.

And now the choir go to work, an elegant conductor in a sharp suit leading the Principality in familiar, proud song. Ken Owens positively roars the final lines, tears coming to his eyes.

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Wales vs Ireland

14:08 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Right, here we go. Ken Owens leans over for a polite chat with the little mascot alongside him, standing to his feet with a deep breath - he’s been in this tunnel plenty of times before, but this is a big occasion for the hooker as he begins his first Six Nations campaign as captain.

Out he comes, closely followed by Johnny Sexton and the rest of the two 23s, warmed by the customary flames.

Wales vs Ireland

13:56 , Harry Latham-Coyle

What chances an Irish Grand Slam? Win this, and with France and England coming to Dublin, they’ll fancy a clean sweep. Not that it’ll be straightforward, of course.

Wales vs Ireland

13:50 , Harry Latham-Coyle

For whatever reason, this feels like a perfect Six Nations starter - encounters between Wales and Ireland are seldom one-sided and Gatland’s return just adds an extra heap of intrigue.

Sexton reflects on Lions omission

13:47 , Harry Latham-Coyle

It sounds like things were all relatively cordial when Johnny Sexton and Warren Gatland bumped into one another at the launch, but the Ireland captain’s omission from the 2021 Lions squad certainly stung Sexton - he’s the sort of competitor who’ll enjoy another chance to prove Gatland wrong.

Johnny Sexton opens up on Warren Gatland after painful Lions snub

Warren Gatland insists his focus is on the rugby

13:44 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Yes, these are troublesome old times for the WRU, in desperate need of governance modernisation and facing an urgent review. Warren Gatland - who rather clumsily attempted to avoid the issue at the Six Nations launch - insists, though, that his focus is very much on the rugby.

Rugby the focus for Wales amid WRU sexism, racism and homophobia scandal

WRU in crisis

13:40 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Welsh Rugby Union chair Ieuan Evans has vowed that a taskforce that includes “external expertise” will be established to help tackle allegations of racist, homophobic and sexist bullying within the governing body.

A number of former WRU employees took part in an investigation by BBC Wales with accusations about their time at the organisation.

Charlotte Wathan, general manager of women’s rugby until her resignation last February, claims offensive comments by a colleague left her in tears and feeling sick, while another unnamed contributor says she was left contemplating suicide by her experiences of bullying and sexism at work.

Incidents of racism and homophobia are also alleged.

It has sparked calls from fans for WRU chief executive Steve Phillips to be sacked, while major sponsors of the game in Wales have expressed grave concerns during the damaging fallout.

WRU chair vows to tackle racist, homophobic and sexist bullying

Can Wales slow Irish ball?

13:36 , Harry Latham-Coyle

It’s a mild surprise to not see Christ Tshiunza among the Welsh 23 given how Warren Gatland has effused about the young Exeter back five forward in the last couple of weeks, but the back row remains a position of real strength for Wales. In Justin Tipuric, Jac Morgan and Tommy Reffell, Gatland can call upon a genuinely top class triumvirate of breakdown troublers, who will be tasked with stalling the rapid ball that allows Ireland to imprint those oh-so-pretty patterns.

Ireland’s accuracy in contact is such that it is difficult to stymie the championship favourites, but it might be a must if Wales are to win today. That late fitness blow for Ireland might help: Conor Murray’s service doesn’t tend to be quite as expeditious as that of Jamison Gibson Park.

Logically, the home side will kick early and often to try and pin their visitors back, allowing their fetchers to get to work in advanced territory and earn opportunities to build from the tee – but Warren Gatland (an expert short-term schemer) has talked this up as a “free hit” for his side, so we’ll see what he has up his sleeve.

Six Nations 2023: Wales vs Ireland

13:34 , Jack Rathborn

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Bealham’s big afternoon

13:33 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Such is the strength of the bind that Tadhg Furlong has had on the Irish tighthead shirt in the last few years, starting opportunities have been hard to come by for Finlay Bealham. The Connacht prop has won 23 of his 27 international caps off the bench, but gets a go from the start today in what is otherwise Ireland’s first-choice group of forwards.

Perhaps as a hint that Furlong’s injuries are slightly more concerning than Andy Farrell is letting on, Ireland have called up Munster’s Roman Salanoa as cover, but the head coach seemed oddly excited to have lost one of his key cogs, and is sure that Bealham is ready to take his opportunity.

"Finlay deserves it," Farrell said. "He’s been playing good rugby for a good while now, but coming back from the Autumn, or any camp he’s been in with us, he’s had that trust.

"He’s a massive personality within our squad, he’s very popular, but coming out of the Autumn and how that translates, going back to Connacht and his performances since then has been top drawer."

Ireland prop Finlay Bealham backed to fill void left by Tadhg Furlong

Crucial battles in midfield

13:28 , Harry Latham-Coyle

It’s rather lovely to see Staurt McCloskey get a long-awaited second Six Nations appearance since making his Ireland debut in the competition seven years ago The Ulster centre has worked hard on his game and offers so much as a carrier, distributor and creator, and his starting spot ahead of Bundee Aki is evidence of how highly Andy Farrell values the 30-year old entering a World Cup year.

His direct opposition today is Joe Hawkins, who captained the Welsh U20s so well last summer and has so much to offer. Warren Gatland has traditionally preferred gainline winners at inside centre but was very, very impressed by Hawkins’ autumn debut against Australia, and spoke this week of needing to finding “other ways” to build an effective attacking structure.

“This is a new team with players with different skills and different strengths, and he brings something that is a little bit different,” said Gatland of Hawkins. “He’s a lovely footballer and I wanted to give him the reassurance and confidence after the Australia performance to start again."

Team News - Ireland

13:25 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Such is the groove that Ireland are in that you could virtually have picked Andy Farrell’s team to open the Six Nations at the end of November - save for injuries, of course, and there’s late bad news for the Ireland boss. Jamison Gibson-Park has been ruled out of the Six Nations opener, with Conor Murray into the starting side and Craig Casey a late call up on to the bench, while Cian Healy is another gameday scratch; Dave Kilcoyne will wear shirt number 17.

That are two other major absentees from a starting fifteen with which we are by now, largely, familiar: Robbie Henshaw has a wrist injury while Tadhg Furlong needs another week to overcome a couple of lower leg issues. A stricken Furlong grants Finlay Bealham a rare start on the tighthead, while Stuart McCloskey is the chosen midfield biffer ahead of Bundee Aki, who makes the bench.

Ireland XV: A Porter, D Sheehan, F Bealham; T Beirne, J Ryan; P O’Mahony, J van der Flier, C Doris; C Murray, J Sexton (capt.); J Lowe, S McCloskey, G Ringrose, M Hansen; H Keenan.

Replacements: R Herring, D Kilcoyne, T O’Toole, I Henderson, J Conan; C Casey, R Byrne, B Aki.

Team News – Wales

13:21 , Harry Latham-Coyle

The first team of the second Gatland era looks remarkably like one that might have been selected during his previous stint in charge. The old guard, largely, remain, though another frustrating injury for Leigh Halfpenny means he is scratched from the team named on Tuesday.

There are a handful of newer faces. Joe Hawkins makes his Six Natiosn debut at inside centre and offers the promise of a second skilful midfield distributer, while Rio Dyer continues to build on his encouraging early days in international rugby on the wing. Jac Morgan and Justin Tipuric, two of three specialist sevens in the matchday 23, have been in outstanding form for the Ospreys and will be key in a crucial battle on the floor.There’s a new skipper, too, with Ken Owens appointed captain ahead of this campaign

Wales XV: G Thomas, K Owens (capt.), T Francis; A Beard, AW Jones; J Morgan, J Tipuric, T Faletau; T Williams, D Biggar; R Dyer, J Hawkins, G North, J Adams; L Williams.

Replacements: S Baldwin, R Carre, D Lewis, D Jenkins, T Reffell; R Webb, O Williams, A Cuthbert.

Who will win the Six Nations? The big talking points ahead of the 2023 Championship

13:19 , Jack Rathborn

World Cup form guide

The Six Nations offers a final chance to see Europe’s major contenders in full throttle before attention switches to the World Cup. Summer warm-up games will allow coaches to make final selection touches, but for serious competitive action, this season’s tournament has extra spice. It will be a major surprise if Ireland or France do not head to the World Cup with a Six Nations title in the locker, although both will have pressures, given that Ireland have never progressed beyond the tournament’s quarter-final phase and France face huge home nation expectation. Time is not on the side of Borthwick and Gatland, given their recent appointments, but both will oversee hugely-competitive squads, while it could be Gregor Townsend’s last Six Nations campaign as Scotland head coach, given speculation that he might be heading to new pastures later this year.

Wales' Liam Williams during a training session at the Vale Resort (PA)
Wales' Liam Williams during a training session at the Vale Resort (PA)

Who will win the Six Nations? The big talking points ahead of the 2023 Championship

13:11 , Jack Rathborn

Exciting prospects to emerge?

The Six Nations is a competition usually for the tried and tested, given its high stakes, but there is also room for new faces to shine. This season’s tournament should be no exception, with England, Ireland and Wales possibly leading the way. London Irish wing and England hopeful Ollie Hassell-Collins is among the Gallagher Premiership’s most consistent performers, showcasing blistering pace and exceptional try-scoring ability, while uncapped Ireland centre Jamie Osborne continued his rapid rise with a man-of-the-match display in Leinster’s recent Heineken Champions Cup rout of Gloucester, and Wales possess two of British rugby’s most promising prospects in Exeter forwards Dafydd Jenkins and Christ Tshiunza.

Leinster’s Jamie Osborne is the only uncapped player in Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations squad (PA Wire)
Leinster’s Jamie Osborne is the only uncapped player in Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations squad (PA Wire)

Who will win the Six Nations? The big talking points ahead of the 2023 Championship

13:03 , Jack Rathborn

Warren Gatland’s Midas touch

When Wales beat South Africa in Pretoria last summer, the odds on Gatland returning as head coach less than six months later would have been greater than 100-1 chance Foinavon winning the 1967 Grand National. But the New Zealander is back for a second stint in the job, having seen Wales win four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and reach two World Cup semi-finals when he was last at the helm between 2008 and 2019. Home defeats against Italy and Georgia underpinned Wayne Pivac’s departure less than a year out from the World Cup, so Gatland has little time to try and turn things around. If anyone can, though, then it is him.

Warren Gatland, who returns for a second stint as the Wales head coach (Getty Images)
Warren Gatland, who returns for a second stint as the Wales head coach (Getty Images)

Who will win the Six Nations? The big talking points ahead of the 2023 Championship

12:54 , Jack Rathborn

Can Steve Borthwick recharge England?

The Eddie Jones era ended in December after a miserable year when England won just five games, with the Rugby Football Union turning to former national team captain Steve Borthwick as his head coach successor. Borthwick’s coaching credentials are impressive, being highlighted by him transforming Leicester from Gallagher Premiership strugglers to champions in two years. A strong assistant coaching team features the likes of Kevin Sinfield and Nick Evans, and there is no doubt that the 43-year-old Cumbrian could make an immediate impact as England boss. Home games against Scotland and Italy should mean a smooth start before trips to Cardiff and Dublin sandwich a Twickenham appointment with France.

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Who will win the Six Nations? The big talking points ahead of the 2023 Championship

12:47 , Jack Rathborn

An early title decider?

If rugby union’s world rankings provide an accurate form guide, then this season’s Six Nations is a two-horse race between Ireland and France. They dominated the tournament last year, with France winning a first Grand Slam since 2010, and their Dublin showdown in round two on February 11 appears title-defining. There are other hurdles where either team could fall, but they are way ahead at the rankings summit of any European rival, with first-placed Ireland winning a Test series in New Zealand last year, then toppling South Africa and Australia, while France won all 10 of their games in 2022.

 (Photosport Ltd 2022 www.photosport.nz)
(Photosport Ltd 2022 www.photosport.nz)

England start new era by relying on old failure

12:40 , Jack Rathborn

England fans who thought, or maybe hoped, the start of the Steve Borthwick era would spell the end of the seemingly doomed Marcus Smith-Owen Farrell combination that came to define the demise of Eddie Jones’s tenure will be in for a shock when seeing the starting XV for Saturday’s Six Nations opener against Scotland.

There, at fly half, is the name Marcus Smith, with Owen Farrell in the No 12 jersey outside him. Cue mass panic and social media hand-wringing over the return of this most unpopular of experiments.

Smith-Farrell was the 10-12 axis that brought down the Jones regime. It was supposed to be a cheat code in attack, a way of squeezing two elite fly halves into the team as a double-playmaker pivot to create an unpredictable, unstoppable force. It unequivocally failed.

The autumn Tests just gone saw Jones’s “unicorn” trio of Smith, Farrell and Manu Tuilagi finally line up as the 10-12-13 alignment, with the potential of England’s innovative attacking structure set to be finally unlocked.

England start new era by relying on old failure

Six Nations brings timely opportunity for rugby to sidestep issues and showcase excitement

12:32 , Jack Rathborn

Hello again Six Nations – how we have needed your timely return. These have been tempestuous times for rugby union, bubbling in a cauldron of existential crises and grim tidings.

To surmise the wretched mess in which the sport finds itself on championship eve: England’s Rugby Football Union has been forced to apologise amid uproar after foisting a tackle height law change on the community game without player or coach consultation; in France, the federation are seeking a new president after Bernard Laporte was found guilty of corruption.

Italian prop Ivan Nemer has been banned for six months after racially abusing his club and international front-row teammate Cherif Traore, while Glasgow Warriors wing Rufus McLean’s contract has been terminated after pleading guilty to domestic violence. And then there is Wales, with a union in turmoil after allegations of a toxic culture of sexism and homophobia, and a newly-installed chief executive with deep fears for the future.

Six Nations is rugby’s chance to sidestep issues and showcase excitement

Six Nations 2023: Wales vs Ireland

12:21 , Jack Rathborn

Welcome to Independent Sport’s Six Nations 2023 coverage.

We’ll have build-up to Wales vs Ireland in Cardiff, plus we’ll have you covered for England vs Scotland at Twickenham later this afternoon.

Warren Gatland’s second reign begins against the world’s No 1 ranked side.

It promises to be the start of a fascinating tournament as Europe’s best do battle in preparation for the World Cup in France later this year.