RORY BEST BELIEVES the breakdown is where Ireland versus Wales will be decided and teammate Sean O’Brien is not arguing.
Wales have kept faith with captain Sam Warburton at openside – benching Justin Tipuric – and flanked him with Aaron Shingler and Toby Faletau.
O’Brien looked back to his best after taking a few games to get into his stride in his comeback from hip surgery.
He has yet to impose his game on the Welsh in three encounters and was famously taken down by brave, low tackles in the World Cup quarter-final defeat.
Peter O’Mahony takes the place of Stephen Ferris in the Irish back-row but O’Brien is aware that winning the back row battle should decide the fate of Saturday’s victors.
He told TheScore.ie, ”We’d play Wales in a back garden if we had to and I don’t think it would change our gameplan too much. The set-piece and the breakdown are going to be two massive things.
“Every back row you come up against is going to be a challenge, no matter who it is, at international level.
He added, “You can’t win a Grand Slam the first day but you can certainly lose one. You need to make a good start so this is a massive game for us.”
Back to his best
O’Brien was out of rugby-playing commission for almost five months following a summer operation on an injured hip that had restricted his movement from the conclusion of the last Six Nations.
By the time he was fully match-fit, Leinster’s Heineken Cup hopes were hanging by a thread that eventually snapped and landed them in Amlin Cup territory.
The Carlow native said, “It took me a couple of games to get back and moving but [recently] I’ve been happy enough with my performances. It is good to get back into the Six Nations match-fit and back to my old self.”
With confidence seeping back into his game and ball-carrying rampages, against Edinburgh and Exeter, reappearing, O’Brien feels the time is right to set the record straight against the Welsh.
He commented, “There’s a bit of hurt there, on our part, from losing the last three. We want to put that right.”