Pressure on the Welsh as the Irish come to town
Wales have failed to impress at the Six Nations and Rob Howley's temporary tenure will be viewed with some derision if a win over Italy transpires to be their only success. Things will get no easier for the interim coach on Friday when his side host an Ireland team determined to keep alive their hopes of winning the tournament.
Despite criticism from fans over a perceived lack of changes in tactics and personnel, Howley has named the same line-up that suffered a 29-13 loss at Scotland last time out.
They will tackle Ireland under the Principality Stadium roof, with the visitors knowing that a defeat will leave the door open for England to clinch the title with a bonus-point victory when they host Scotland on Saturday.
Ireland are also unchanged, with Joe Schmidt's men having defeated France 19-9 in their previous outing.
HEAD TO HEAD
Memories of 2016?
Ireland threw away a 13-point lead as Wales roared back to claim a 16-16 draw in Dublin. In fact, Wales were ahead themselves when Rhys Priestland kicked a 72nd-minute penalty, but Jonathan Sexton responded in kind to level it up in a dramatic finish.
Liam Williams (Wales)
Williams' value to Wales is evident from his contribution over the first three games, having scored a try in each despite his side being short of their best. His team-mates will look to him for inspiration as Williams seeks to build on his tournament-leading seven clean breaks.
CJ Stander (Ireland)
Ireland have relied almost as heavily on the impressive Stander, who can match Williams' trio of tries. Factor in the 69 carries – 15 more than anyone else at the tournament – and it is easy to see why Stander is such a talisman for his country.
Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Liam Williams, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty.
Rob Kearney, Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Simon Zebo, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best (captain), Tadhg Furlong, Donnacha Ryan, Devin Toner, CJ Stander, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip.
Rob Howley (Wales)
"This is the chance to go out in front of our own supporters and deliver a display which the players are proud of and for the fans to support. It will be a huge game."
Joe Schmidt (Ireland)
"They [Wales] keep that ball and they keep the pressure on because they are very much a gain line team, and it's very hard to stop them getting that gain line when the big runners get involved."
- Wales beat Ireland when last hosting them in the Six Nations, but have not won consecutive home matches against them in the competition since 1983
- Ireland need 17 points to reach 500 in the Six Nations under coach Joe Schmidt, with this being his 19th championship game at the helm.
- Ireland's starting XV's combined total of 715 caps is only one more than Wales' tally.
- Ireland have slotted their last 16 kicks at goal in the Six Nations with Paddy Jackson making his last 13 in a row, while Johnny Sexton has landed his three attempts off the tee so far.