Six Nations 2016: Wales expect Ireland aerial barrage

By Richard WilliamsBBC Wales Sport
The 2016 Six Nations in numbers
Six Nations: Ireland v Wales
Date: Sunday, 7 February Venue: Aviva Stadium Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on Radio 5 live sports extra, BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

Defence coach Shaun Edwards expects Wales' new-look back three of George North, Gareth Anscombe and Tom James to face a barrage of high kicks in Dublin.

Ireland's Six Nations title defence begins with high winds forecast and Wales preparing for an aerial battle.

James has been selected for the first time in more than five years and Edwards has been working hard with him.

"Tom is the player I've done most work with this week because he's the new player," said Edwards.

"The wind is supposed to be coming in, so we have been working on our aerial game.

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"It's something we do all the time because it's a crucial part of the modern game - that understanding between the back three and being cohesive together is vitally important."

Wales were well-beaten in their last Six Nations visit to Aviva Stadium in 2014, when Ireland's kicking game was a crucial factor.

But Joe Schmidt's team go into the game without a number of front-line players, including kick-chase specialist Rob Kearney.

Working on defence

Wales have far fewer injury worries, but their back three is not the most experienced, with full-back Anscombe and wing James having just 13 appearances between them.

Anscombe played during the 2015 World Cup, but James' last international was against New Zealand in November, 2010.

The 2016 Six Nations in numbers

Edwards says that like any outside back, James has been spending a lot of time working on defence.

"I do more work with the wingers anyway because defending on the wing is incredibly difficult," added Edwards.

"If they make an error it's absolutely glaring because it either creates a line break or a try, so the concentration level in that position is massively important.

"That's why Tom coming back into the team means I've spent more time with him."

Take your pick

Despite Ireland's injury problems, Edwards does not believe Wales will start as favourites for the match or the tournament.

"I think it's a take-your-pick game," he said.

"Ireland were firm favourites before Christmas and that what's fantastic about the Six Nations - there is no clear favourite."

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