Wales v Ireland: Warren Gatland's world number one side to see off struggling rivals

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones
Wales climbed to the top of the world rankings after beating England
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Wales have climbed to the top of the world rankings and Simon Mail previews their first match since reaching the summit as they host Ireland in their World Cup warm-up...

"Wales will have fond memories of the last clash between the teams with their dominant 25-7 home win against Ireland clinching the Six Nations Grand Slam in March."

Wales v Ireland
Saturday, 14:30
Live on Channel 4

Wales looking down on the rest at top of rankings

Wales are in new territory after climbing to the top of the world rankings. It is reward for an exceptional run under Warren Gatland over the last year. The Six Nations Grand Slam champions have found a winning mentality, built on their ferocious defence, which could yet lead them to success at the World Cup next month in Japan.

New Zealand were knocked off their perch after Wales' 13-6 home victory against England in their last match. Fly-half Dan Biggar proved he is capable of handling the big occasion after setting up the crucial try for George North. It was their 15th win in 16 matches, with the only blemish during this run coming against England at Twickenham earlier this month.

Ireland need response after England battering

While everything is rosy in the Wales camp, it could not be more different for Ireland with Joe Schmidt facing a huge challenge to lift his team in his final months in charge. Ireland looked likely World Cup contenders after beating New Zealand last November but their Six Nations defence went poorly and they were dismantled by England last week.

England registered their largest winning margin against Ireland after a 57-15 win at Twickenham. Ireland were hapless defensively as they shipped eight tries and Schmidt clearly has a big task on his hands to revive their fortunes. Injury concerns to Cian Healy and scrum-half Conor Murray have not helped matters and it is hard to escape the feeling Ireland peaked a year early.

Wales will have fond memories of the last clash between the teams with their dominant 25-7 home win against Ireland clinching the Grand Slam in March. Ireland have only won one of the last five meetings between the teams and their limp showing in the Six Nations will hardly have given them confidence for their return trip to Cardiff.

This looks like a match between a team close to the peak of their powers and another in disarray so it is easy to side with the hosts. Wales should be too strong again for Ireland at the Principality Stadium and it is a worry the visitors are looking so porous defensively. Wales' last four wins against Ireland have been by at least six points and Gatland's team are worth backing to cover a three-point handicap this weekend.

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Georgia v Scotland
Saturday, 17:00
Live on Premier Sports

Scotland aiming to halt travel sickness

Scotland responded to their heavy 32-3 defeat in Nice by overcoming France last week. Gregor Townsend's side fought back from 14-3 behind to defeat France 17-14 at Murrayfield, with tries from Sean Maitland and Chris Harris. There was a significant blow though with lock Sam Skinner ruled out of the World Cup with a hamstring injury.

Georgia are making progress on the international stage and will be hoping to make an impact at the World Cup. Their chances of qualifying from a group featuring Wales and Australia look minimal but Georgia could be capable of pulling off a scalp. The team have won their last seven matches with their most recent defeat coming against Italy in November.

Scotland have won the two meetings against Georgia although both came at home and there is no doubt they will find this a tougher prospect. Their away form has to be a significant concern ahead of Japan, with Scotland failing to win their last four matches on the road. Georgia will have noted their away struggles, leaving them confident of keeping it close in Tbilisi and the hosts can prevail with an eight-point handicap advantage.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

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