Wales need to stop Murray and Sexton from dominating - Warren Gatland

Johnny Sexton, right, and Conor Murray, left, are in Warren Gatland’s cross hairs
Johnny Sexton, right, and Conor Murray, left, are in Warren Gatland’s cross hairs
©Gareth Fuller/PA

Wales head coach Warren Gatland insisted that keeping the pressure on Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton will be crucial when they head to Aviva Stadium on Saturday to take on Ireland in the third round of Six Nations Championship.

Both players were part of Gatland's British and Irish Lions squad in last year's tour of New Zealand and played their role in Ireland's wins over France and Italy in the opening two rounds.

“We’ve got to attack them,” said Gatland, who is closing in on a 100th Test as head coach of Wales.

“We have had some pretty good success not allowing Johnny too much time and space on the ball. Our line-speed defensively has got to be good.

“We have got to put Conor and his kicking game under pressure. We have to be prepared to be pretty physical against them.

“We have got to be physical against them up-front and stop the running power of someone like CJ Stander, and stop allowing Murray and Sexton to dominate the game. If we can do that, we have got a chance.

“They are comfortable playing through lots of phases, they’ve got an excellent kicking game, their nine and 10 combination is probably one of the best in world rugby. We’ve got a job to do to try and shut them down.”

Gatland has made three changes to the squad with full-back Leigh Halfpenny, wing Liam Williams and fly-half Dan Biggar all returning from injuries.

Both England and Ireland are yet to lose a game in this tournament and many experts believe the clash between the two teams will be the decider for the Six Nations Championship.

Asked, though, if he thought Ireland were the strongest team in the tournament, Gatland added: “No. England are a tough outfit. Ireland ground out a win in France.

“You’ve got to keep your discipline against Ireland. Our discipline has been excellent in the first two games.

“We’ve got to make sure we don’t give Ireland an opportunity to kick to the sidelines by giving away penalties and execute their driving lineout, which is pretty effective, and allow Johnny Sexton to keep their scoreboard ticking over with three points.

“That’s what they do. They play through lots of phases, but we’ve conceded the least points in the competition so far.

“Andy Farrell (Ireland defence coach) won’t be happy with Ireland conceding 19 points against Italy. Two or three of Ireland’s tries against Italy were from turnover situations and an interception.

“We’ve got to make sure we don’t get caught up in that, keep our patience defensively and our discipline has to be good. They are a quality side that are hard to break down.”

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