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Wayne Pivac prepared for "massive step up" in Ireland clash

Wayne Pivac prepared for
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Wales head to Dublin following their comfortable victory over Italy in Cardiff.

New Wales boss Wayne Pivac is braced for "a massive step up" in next Saturday's Guinness Six Nations showdown against Ireland.

Wayne's world has premiered strongly, with Wales following a comfortable victory over the Barbarians in November by launching their title defence with a 42-0 drubbing of Italy.

Pivac's players now head to Dublin in search of a record ninth successive Six Nations win, although Ireland were the last team to beat them in the tournament almost two years ago.

Josh Adams scored a hat-trick of tries for Wales
Josh Adams scored a hat-trick of tries for Wales against Italy (Adam Davy/PA)

"It is certainly going to be a massive step up from where we've been," Pivac said.

"It has been quite a nice start in terms of the Barbarians and getting a lot of firsts out of the way, and then having this home match and getting five points. That has been pleasing, but we are under no illusions it's a real step up now.

"A lot of hard work needs to be done because the performance against Italy certainly wasn't perfect, even though we had a good-looking scoreline."

Wales clinched the Grand Slam when they met Ireland in Cardiff last March, winning 25-7 after a dominant display that saw their opponents outclassed.

Wales wrapped up the Grand Slam in their last Six Nations clash with Ireland
Wales wrapped up the Grand Slam in their last Six Nations clash with Ireland (David Davies/PA)

Asked if the Irish will be hurting from that result, Pivac added: "All players will remember the last time they played against a certain opposition.

"If you don't have your best day at the office, you always want to improve on it next time around, and I'm sure they will be no different.

"It's a new competition with new coaches on both teams."

Pivac's options in terms of his matchday 23 next weekend should be strengthened by centre Owen Watkin, scrum-half Gareth Davies and hooker Elliot Dee all being available following injuries.

— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) February 1, 2020

But one of his biggest selection debates could revolve around Saracens centre Nick Tompkins, who delivered an outstanding performance off the bench against Italy that was highlighted by a brilliant solo try.

He presented a powerful case, and Pivac said: "He was given an opportunity and he took it with both hands. You love to see that on debut.

"The try he got, we were seeing that at training with his footwork and acceleration. It was pleasing that 68,500 got to see it (on Saturday)."

While newcomer Tompkins excelled, it was a seasoned Wales campaigner – 80 times-capped Northampton fly-half Dan Biggar – who pressed all the right tactical buttons.

And he gave a huge sign of the confidence he is currently playing with by audaciously flicking a scoring pass through his legs for hat-trick hero Josh Adams' second try.

"The boys have given me a bit of stick – I think I could have just passed it normally!" Biggar said.

"It was slightly behind me, so I thought I would just flick it and hope for the best. Josh did what he does so well.

"I feel pretty good in myself. It feels like I am in decent nick at the minute and it's just about carrying that on for as long as possible.

"We are trying to open up the field as much as possible by playing off 10 and giving ourselves both sides of the ball to play with.

"It is similar to what we have in Northampton with (rugby director) Chris Boyd. He wants us to play and be adventurous with our calls.

Ireland v Scotland – Guinness Six Nations – Aviva Stadium
Dublin's Aviva Stadium, where Wales will play Ireland next Saturday. (Donall Farmer/PA Wire)

"You know where you stand with Wayne. It is pretty black and white and it has been about positivity, playing with speed and width.

"When you are in decent form you seem to have half a second more. But I am fully aware that you are only as good as your next game, and we have a very tough game next week.

"When you are in good form you have to take advantage and try and cash in a little bit. I also quite like when I am not quite at my best and you have to roll your sleeves up. We will have to do a fair amount of that next week.

"As much as we probably want to play as much rugby as possible, next week is probably when you have to roll your sleeves up away from home, especially when your two away games are in Dublin and at Twickenham.

"You have to put the hard yards in first before looking to do anything too fancy."

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