Ireland beat up Wales 35-21 in Rugby World Cup warmup
CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Ireland enjoyed a satisfying first warmup for the Rugby World Cup by drubbing a flattered Wales 35-21 under the Millennium Stadium roof on Saturday.
Ireland blitzed the Welsh with three tries in the first half hour, led 25-7 at halftime, and 35-7 with 10 minutes to go.
Two late tries gave Wales some credibility on the scoreboard, but by then Ireland’s intensity had dropped and all of its reserves were on.
There was a late worry for the Irish when flanker Tommy O’Donnell fell awkwardly after being tackled, injured his hip, and was taken off on a stretcher. Coach Joe Schmidt said O’Donnell was taken to hospital, and a prognosis won’t be known until Sunday.
“Tommy made 14 or 15 tackles, he got at least three, maybe four or five turnovers,” Schmidt said. “He’s such a dynamic player for us that we’re just going to cross our fingers (he’s OK and available for the World Cup).”
Wales was left with most of the concern, as Ireland dominated the set-pieces, bossed the breakdowns, and, understandably, showed more fluency. An experimental side started with four new caps, and introduced two more to give Wales its most number of new faces in a game in Cardiff since 1967 against the All Blacks.
Wearing their new World Cup kit for the first time, the Welsh looked anything but World Cup-ready. Coach Warren Gatland said he will trim his squad by up to 10 players after a trial match next week.
He reserved praise for his substitutes; halves Lloyd Williams and New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe, No. 8 Taulupe Faletau, and center Matthew Morgan. Gatland was frustrated at coming off second best at the breakdowns, and the poor effort in the first half.
Captain Jamie Heaslip, becoming Ireland’s most capped back-rower with his 73rd, strolled over in the eighth minute after a turnover by Wales midfielder Scott Williams.
Paddy Jackson added a penalty, and converted tries by inside center Darren Cave off a scrum move, and outside center Keith Earls from a turnover by Wales winger Eli Walker. Earls was player of the match in his first test in more than two years, and in serious contention for the World Cup squad.
Wales hooker Richard Hibbard scored a try off a lineout on halftime, when Gatland decided to substitute in only Faletau.
Faletau was soon leading a two-man back row after debutant flanker Ross Moriarty was sin-binned for a swinging arm on Irish wing Simon Zebo.
Moriarty’s absence was exploited with a try to Zebo down the blindside. Heaslip won turnover ruck ball in midfield, and Ireland worked an overlap for fullback Felix Jones to score their fifth try.
Heaslip was replaced by Chris Henry, who was yellow-carded five minutes later. Still, Wales couldn’t exploit the man advantage.
Not until late did Wales come alive again, when flanker Justin Tipuric scored from neat passes with center Tyler Morgan, and Alex Cuthbert scored from a cut-out pass by replacement flyhalf Anscombe, who made the conversion from the sideline.
The teams play a return match in Dublin on Aug. 29.