WALES face a huge task in Ireland this Saturday, but will be looking to upset the odds.

There is one change to the starting XV that narrowly lost to England at Twickenham on February 10, with Sam Costelow returning for Wales at fly-half.

Among the replacements, back-row Mackenzie Martin is in line to win his first senior cap this weekend and would become the 1,200th Wales men’s international.

Tight-head prop Dillon Lewis will also be making his first appearance of the Championship if called on from the bench.

Coach Warren Gatland said: “We are excited to go out to Dublin and test ourselves against one of the leading sides in world rugby. It’s a challenge we are relishing.

“We’ve made steps in the last couple of games and now it’s about building on that, learning from those experiences and taking that into this weekend.

“It’s about continuing to work hard, looking for accuracy in our performance across 80 minutes and also keeping our discipline.”

The size of the task facing Wales this weekend is illustrated by the statistics provided by the Guinness Six Nations official partners OPTA.

When it comes to the tournament, Ireland have posted more wins than any other nation over the 26 years, have the highest win per centage and the second biggest points and try scorers. Only England have scored more points and tries.

Those figures have delivered three Grand Slams, seven Triple Crowns and five Championship titles in what is the greatest period in the history of Irish rugby. Now they are chasing something that has only happened five times in the past – back-to-back Grand Slams.

After wins over France and Italy, Wales are next up as Peter O’Mahoney’s side look to stay on course to join Wales (1908-09), England (1913-14, 1923-24, 1991-92) and France (1997-98) in completing a clean sweep in successive seasons.

The crushing 36-0 win over Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Round 2 made it 10 Championship wins in a row. Another win over Wales this weekend would enable O’Mahoney’s men to equal the tournament’s all-time record of 11 straight wins by England between 2015-17.

The omens are good given the recent form of Wales at this level. Ireland are unbeaten in each of their last five home games against Wales in the Six Nations (W4 D1), winning the last three in a row. They’ve never won more consecutive matches (W3 on 5 previous occasions) or enjoyed a longer unbeaten streak (W4 D1 between 1888-96) at home to Wales in the history of the Championship.

Wales have lost nine of their last 10 Six Nations matches, including their last three. Five of those defeats have come by four points or fewer, including both matches so far this campaign (1 point v Scotland, 2 points v England).

The last three Irish wins over Wales have been by 20+ points and they have won six of the last seven against the team in red. Making it almost ‘Mission Impossible’ for Warren Gatland’s team in Dublin will be the strength of Ireland’s record on home soil.

Ireland have won 38 of their last 40 Test matches on home soil (L2), with only England (2019) and France (2021) winning in Dublin in that spell. The current run of 17 consecutive home wins is the best in their Test history.

A third win of the 2024 campaign would be the perfect way for O’Mahoney to celebrate making what is expected to be his 50th appearance in the Six Nations. That would make him the ninth Irish player to reach that milestone in the Championship, joining Rory Best, Ronan O’Gara, Brian O’Driscoll, Cian Healy, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, John Hayes and Paul O’Connell.

Wales senior men’s team to play Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in the Guinness Six Nations, Saturday 24 February KO 2.15pm GMT. Live on ITV and S4C.

15. Cameron Winnett (Cardiff Rugby – 2 caps)

14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 56 caps)

13. George North (Ospreys – 119 caps)

12. Nick Tompkins (Saracens – 34 caps)

11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – 16 caps)

10. Sam Costelow (Scarlets – 9 caps)

9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 55 caps)

1. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 27 caps)

2. Elliot Dee (Dragons – 48 caps)

3. Keiron Assiratti (Cardiff Rugby – 4 caps)

4. Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 14 caps) Captain / Capten

5. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 53 caps)

6. Alex Mann (Cardiff Rugby – 2 caps)

7. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 15 caps)

8. Aaron Wainwright (Dragons – 45 caps)


16. Ryan Elias (Scarlets – 40 caps)

17. Corey Domachowski (Cardiff Rugby – 8 caps)

18. Dillon Lewis (Harlequins – 54 caps)

19. Will Rowlands (Racing 92 – 30 caps)

20. Mackenzie Martin (Cardiff Rugby – uncapped)

21. Kieran Hardy (Scarlets – 19 caps)

22. Ioan Lloyd (Scarlets – 4 caps)

23. Mason Grady (Cardiff Rugby – 8 caps)

The match is live on ITV and S4C on saturday (February 24), kick-off 2.15pm.