Irish prepare 'magic' for mismatch

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The Independent Online

Ireland will not be daunted by the physcial mismatch on the wings when they face Wales on Saturday, warns the Munster scrum-half, Conor Murray.

Craig Gilroy and Simon Zebo can expect a brutal assault when they come up against the Welsh giants Alex Cuthbert and George North in the Six Nations opener in Cardiff, with the Irish pair conceding at least three inches and two and a half stone to their adversaries.

The Ireland wings are also trailing in terms of experience, possessing only four caps between them and making their championship debuts while Cuthbert and North have accumulated 29 Test appearances.

But the pace and finishing skills of Gilroy and Zebo are enough to even the odds in what should be two fascinating duels between players of contrasting styles, all of them capable of winning a place on the Lions' summer tour to Australia.

Murray, for one, is keen to dash Welsh hopes that the Irish pair will wilt defensively. "Craig and Simon are lethal finishers and are the type of players who can pull out a piece of magic from nowhere," he said. "They have the ability to get us going, put us on the front foot and light up a game.

"If it's Cuthbert and North they're up against, it will be a huge physical challenge. We'll have to make our first- up tackles and I don't think Zeebs and Gilroy will shy away from that, they've been making their tackles all year."

North and Cuthbert may have an exciting mix of pace and power, but the form winger in Welsh rugby is the Ospreys uncapped three-quarter Eli Walker – man of the match in the Ospreys' Heineken Cup defeat of Toulouse last month and the scorer of a wonderful try against Treviso.

He is just the sort of player that could help the Six Nations champions end a run of seven defeats. Unfortunately, the 20-year-old is battling to be fit for the Ireland game due to a hamstring problem. However, he has set himself the task of usurping one of his rivals before the tournament ends.

"It's definitely a goal to be capped," he said. "I'd like to think I'm not here to make up the numbers but to put pressure on the other guys. I'd like to think we feed off each other."