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04th Feb 2023

Ireland vs Wales: All the big talking points, moments and player ratings

Jason Hennessy

Ireland player ratings

What a superb Irish performance that was.

The 2023 Guinness Six Nations championship got underway in Cardiff as Ireland destroyed Wales 34-10. Our full Ireland player ratings show how well the entire match-day squad did, with two men topping the scores with 9s.

Round 1 sees Wales host Ireland in the opening game of the tournament on Saturday, before England host Scotland. On Sunday, holders France open up the defence of their title with a tricky visit to Rome to take on Italy, who surprised us all last year with a big win over Wales.

Ireland roared into their opening game and found themselves 27-3 up at half-time. Wales threatened a second half comeback but Ireland weathered that storm and got a late bonus point when Josh van der Flier scored.


Hugo Keenan – 9

Try-saving tackle on Rio Dyer was some show of pace. Won a high ball, and a penalty for his side, soon after. His handling was on-point, he was alive to threats and had a few nice counters in the second half.

Hugo Keenan

Mack Hansen – 7

The tactic of winning back possession through high balls did not go to plan, in the first half, but that was mainly because the Welsh handled it well. Two stunning offloads, late on.

Garry Ringrose – 7

Hunted Liam Williams well to force an early Welsh error. Made a huge tackle that left Dan Biggar rattled. Did miss a few tackles. Relentless in attack.

Stuart McCloskey – 7

No fear on him at the start, with a looping cut-out pass. Won his side a turnover in a near-perfect first half.

James Lowe – 7

Smart kick up the wing put Wales under early pressure. Brilliant intercept try left Wales stunned. Came up with a big turnover in the Ireland 22, soon after. A positive outing after so long without a game but did miss three tackles.

Ireland player ratings

Johnny Sexton – 8

Nice switch pass inside to Ryan before the Doris try. Coughed up possession when he was hit hard when trying to spread play wide. Guided his team well in an all-action first half. Left after 68 minutes after another couple of big hits shipped.

Conor Murray – 8

Some would have worried about him injecting pace to Ireland’s game but he did a fine Gibson-Park impression in the opening stages.

Andrew Porter – 6

Super stuff from the big baller. Lots of strong carries and clear-outs. Lost one scrum penalty but showed up at the other end of the pitch with a try-saving tackle. Pinged twice in close succession at the start of the first half. Then penalised for what the Welsh, and referee, saw as a late dump on Liam Williams. Turned over as Ireland sought fourth try.

Dan Sheehan – 8

Some brave line out throws to the back really had Wales in bother. Showed up well in a few attacks and was strong in defence.

Finlay Bealham – 8

Kicked off with some strong carries, early doors. Won the penalty that put Ireland 17-3 ahead. The tighthead stuck 12 tackles, too. 

Tadhg Beirne – 7

Early worries when he was caught in a ruck but he was able to play on. Stuck 13 tackles in his hour on the pitch.

James Ryan – 8

Drove home the early Irish advantage with a bulldozing try from close range. Made a huge line out steal, on 63 minutes. 

Peter O’Mahony – 7

Wales wanted to slow down Irish ball but O’Mahony was wide to it. Jumped well in the lineout and was rarely threatened in the air.

Josh van der Flier – 8

Was top Irish tackler in the first half and staved off the Wales breakdown threat. Won his side a second half turnover as Wales showed some fight. Bagged the bonus point try.

Caelan Doris – 9

Crashed over for a try after only two minutes. Was all over the pitch, in attack and defence. Made a huge turnover inside his 22 to stall Welsh momentum. Finished with 18 tackles and none missed.


Iain Henderson (for Beirne ’50) – 6

Was almost sin-binned after coming on, but ref settled for a penalty.

Tom O’Toole (for Bealham ’60) – 7

Did well in his first Six Nations outing.

Jack Conan (for O’Mahony ’60) – 6

Added some bite to his side.

Bundee Aki (for McCloskey ’60) – 7

Looked to have won a big turnover, only to be harshly pinged for tackling a player without the ball. Made a clear turnover, not too long after.

Craig Casey (for Murray ’65) – 6

Coughed up possession after being gobbled by two Welsh tacklers.

Ross Byrne (for Sexton ’68) – 7

His first kick from hand was aimless. Was solid thereafter. Settling into Test rugby, finally.

Rob Herring (for Sheehan ’73) – 6

Tidy as Ireland finished on a high.

Dave Kilcoyne (for Porter ’73) – 6

Came in when victory was assured.


Ireland player ratings


On House of Rugby, former Munster and Ireland Sevens player Greg O’Shea laid out a case for why Andy Farrell and his men should be confident going into their opening match

“I’ve heard people tipping Wales to win it,” he said. “I was actually offended. I was like, ‘What?’”

As fellow pundits Jason Hennessy and Lindsay Peat backed up their worried words, a smiling O’Shea assured them, “Lads, Ireland are so good though!”

“It’s Warren Gatland,” argued Hennessy. “With Warren Gatland coming back in for his first game, in the Principality Stadium, do not expect a win. There’s every chance they can win it. As Ireland are – and I’m hopeful of a Six Nations win or a grand slam – that could be a slippery first game.”

In the end, the confidence if Greg O’Shea proved correct.


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