Warburton predicts Welsh backlash
February 1, 2013
Can the memory of last year's Six Nations success help Wales return to winning ways? © Getty Images
Wales captain Sam Warburton is adamant his side can snap their seven-Test losing run and kick off their defence of the Six Nations crown with victory over Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday.
Warburton's side have not won since beating France in the final game of last year's Six Nations to secure the Grand Slam but the skipper is adamant that they will enter this year's championship with "massive confidence" thanks to what was their third clean sweep in eight years.
"We were not favourites last year, but as players you ignore it," he said. "No-one really knows what is going to happen until the first weekend of rugby. After it, we will have a much better idea of how teams are shaping up.
"We will take massive confidence from going into the game as defending Grand Slam champions. Regardless of what has happened since then, you cannot take that away from us. It was a great achievement and a lot of the boys from last year are here and know what it takes. The young players can let the negatives go over their heads and not affect them. It is a very confident camp, and I am always the optimist."
Wales powered to last year's title playing exciting and free-flowing rugby but they only managed three tries in the autumn as they slumped to defeats at the hands of Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia. In contrast, Ireland racked up seven tries in their latest victory over Argentina and were also the top try-scorers in last year's Six Nations - a fact not lost on Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards.
"Ireland had the best offence in last year's Six Nations, and some of the rugby they played against Argentina in the autumn was breathtaking," Edwards said. We know we are going to be massively challenged defensively. They have a lot of creative players, and we've got to make sure we don't give them the kind of space Argentina did. If you give them that kind of space, they will punish you."
© ESPN EMEA Ltd