Six Nations 2013: Wales looking to regain winning touch against Ireland

Wales shrugged off Jim Telfer's comments that their players were inherently lazy by saying they did not know where the former Scotland and Lions coach was coming from.

Of far more pressing concern for the defending champions is stopping a run of seven successive defeats and starting their Six Nations campaign with a victory against Ireland at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Wales will announce their side on Thursday, 48 hours after Ireland, and they will consider tailoring their selection to the opposition they will face. Having dabbled with the idea of playing two open-side flankers in the back row, Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric, they may reconsider with Ireland opting for power and ball-carrying strength there.

Mark Jones, Wales's interim attack coach, said: "We know we can play better than we did in the autumn. There is no panic in the camp and the players know that simply wanting to do better will not make it happen. It is a matter of learning why things did not go well in November. We are the grand slam champions and we are determined to retain the title."

Three of Wales's matches in the autumn, against Argentina, Samoa and Australia, brought them a solitary try, and that was a long-range interception by Ashley Beck. They had problems creating space, something Jones has been working on, and although they have been beset by injuries at forward, only the fly-half Rhys Priestland will be missing from the back division.

"We have got the same excitement and motivation in the camp that we had a year ago," said the wing Alex Cuthbert, Wales' top try scorer in the 2012 Six Nations. "Our physicality won us the game in Dublin last year and I hope we can take that forward into the weekend. We know it is going to be hard but we know we can do the job."

Cuthbert and George North are wings built like second-rows and Wales will be looking to get them involved from the outset as part of the battle for the gainline. Too often in the autumn, the wide men were spectators for the most part.

"Rob [Howley, the interim head coach] has given the likes of George and me the role of coming off the wing and looking for the ball," said Cuthbert. "Shane Williams was a perfect example of that: he used to get his hands on the ball all the time and I model myself on him.

"Rob is challenging us to get as many touches as possible and look for mismatches, using our footwork to get away from the bigger guys. I have set myself a target of 15 touches a game; it is high but it sums up the expectations we have in the Wales camp."

North and Cuthbert are being challenged by Eli Walker, the young Ospreys wing who has made an impact in the RaboDirect Pro 12 and Heineken Cup this season, but he has a hamstring strain that is likely to rule him out of consideration until next week.

Powered by article was written by Paul Rees, for on Tuesday 29th January 2013 18.43 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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