Rugby Union / Five Nations Championship: Elwood and Jenkins prepare to shoot it out: Scotland dream of turning clock back to 1990 as Ireland are stung by criticism from their former coach

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The Independent Online
WALES would like to return the compliment. They may have been on cloud nine last season after beating England, but when Ireland arrived in Cardiff the Welsh caught a terrible cold and went on to collect the wooden spoon. What better, then, than an away-day win at Lansdowne Road this afternoon which would leave the fired-up dragon celebrating an all-conquering start to the Five Nations.

Coincidentally, the compliments are not exactly flying about here. Quite the reverse, in fact. The Welsh, no strangers themselves to bickering in public, are doubtless delighted at recent events in Irish circles while they slip quietly into Dublin and focus on following up their success over the Scots. Members of the green party, you see, have been seeing red and it has nothing to do with the Welsh.

Since losing to France in Paris there have been all sorts of shenanigans concerning Michael Bradley's continuing presence in the side. The leprechaun in all this is Mick Doyle, the former national coach who guided Ireland to the Triple Crown in 1985 and whose term of office concluded two years later after the inaugural World Cup.

Now Doyle delights in writing a newspaper column, though those associated with the Irish team are currently less than delighted. Doyle considers that Bradley is not up to scratch. The captain's pass is too short and too slow for an international scrum-half and, on top of that, his kicking ability and capacity for incisive breaks have gone to pot.

Well, as a former international, Doyle is entitled to his opinions. What has really hurt, though, is his suggestion that Bradley's place in the team may be down to the fact that his father-in-law is the manager. Enter Noel Murphy, who, Doyle said, was in 'the unenviable' position of being expected to discuss Bradley's value to the team objectively.

Doyle and Murphy, who is also chairman of selectors, may have played together in 14 internationals but they are now definitely on opposing sides. Murphy has condemned Doyle's remarks as 'unwarranted and unjustified personal attacks on Ireland's captain'. Furthermore, Murphy added: 'I bitterly resent it when my integrity is called into question. I will not have my integrity impugned by anyone.'

Mind you, neither Murphy nor Bradley were short of the blarney before the 35-15 defeat at the Parc des Princes. 'I have just the same positive feeling that I had before we played England last March,' Murphy said. His son-in-law was similarly carried away: 'We can win every game in this championship.' One down and three to play.

Two down and two to play and heaven knows what Doyle would come up with. However, here things are expected to be close, perhaps as close as they were when Wales last visited and won by a single point. What we do have are two rival half-backs who could decide the match, through their goalkicking and hopefully a little bit more besides.

The pair met at the Arms Park last season and Eric Elwood, making his Irish debut, won on points over Neil Jenkins. 'We will never forget in Irish rugby that you have to make things happen,' Murphy said. Elwood did after the humble beginnings of a drop-goal attempt that never left the ground, Ireland's fifth stand-off in a year contributing three penalties and converting Brian Robinson's try.

Jenkins also kicked three penalties, but missed seven other shots on goal. 'My confidence was shot to pieces,' he said. 'It was one of the most miserable days of my life.' Things could only get better and they have. More relaxed and nearing 350 points for the season, his eight penalties against Canada were a world record in an international.

The trouble is that Wales lost, though Jenkins says that even if he misses 20 kicks tomorrow he will not let it affect him. And Elwood? Well, you would have to say that little affects him, either. He scored all Ireland's 15 points in Paris with five penalties and the scene is set here for some shoot-out.

It all comes down to nerve and, as so often in internationals, not giving away penalties. Which brings us to two naughty front-row boys, neither of whom can risk stepping out of line. Peter Clohessy, the Irish prop, was suspended for 10 weeks earlier this season over a well-publicised stamping incident, and the fighting Welsh hooker Garin Jenkins, was selected here in spite of his televised fisticuffs against the Scots.

And if the rough do not get going, then the going is certainly expected to be rough. The weather here has been foul and if it continues then the emphasis rests even more on the boots of Elwood and Jenkins.

Defeat for Ireland A, page 22

----------------------------------------------------------------- IRELAND v WALES At Lansdowne Road ----------------------------------------------------------------- C O'Shea. . . . . . . Lansdowne 15 A Clement. . . . . . .Swansea R Wallace. . . . . . .Garryowen 14 I Evans. . . . . . . .Llanelli, capt M McCall. . . . . . . . .Bangor 13 M Hall. . . . . . . . Cardiff P Danaher. . . . . . .Garryowen 12 N Davies. . . . . . . Llanelli S Geoghegan. . . . London Irish 11 W Proctor. . . . . . .Llanelli E Elwood. . . . . . . Lansdowne 10 N Jenkins. . . . . . .Pontypridd M Bradley. . Constitution, capt 9 R Moon. . . . . . . . Llanelli N Popplewell. . . . .Greystones 1 R Evans. . . . . . . .Llanelli T Kingston. . . . . . . Dolphin 2 G Jenkins. . . . . . .Swansea P Clohessy. . . . Young Munster 3 J Davies. . . . . . . Neath M Galwey. . . . . . . . Shannon 4 P Davies. . . . . . . Llanelli N Francis. . . . .Old Belvedere 5 G O Llewellyn. . . . .Neath B Robinson. . . . . . Ballymena 6 E Lewis. . . . . . . .Llanelli P Johns. . . . . . . .Dungannon 8 S Quinnell. . . . . . Llanelli D McBride. . . . . . . . Malone 7 M Perego. . . . . . . Llanelli ----------------------------------------------------------------- Replacements: 16 C Clarke Replacements: 16 M Rayer (Terenure College), 17 A (Cardiff), 17 S Hill (Cardiff), McGowan (Blackrock College), 18 R Jones (Swansea), 19 R McBryde 18 R Saunders (London Irish), (Swansea), 20 H Williams-Jones 19 K O'Connell (Sunday's Well), (Llanelli), 21 A Copsey (Llanelli). 20 P McCarthy (Constitution), 21 K Wood (Garryowen). ----------------------------------------------------------------- Referee: A Spreadbury (England). Kick-off: 2.45. TV: BBC Wales and BBC Northern Ireland. -----------------------------------------------------------------