Stockdale double clinches #6Nations thriller for Ireland over Wales

The return of key stars Dan Biggar Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams makes Wales dangerous

The return of key stars Dan Biggar Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams makes Wales dangerous

The ugly side of sportswriting is that your opinion can be decimated by a single game.

"The type of guy he is, I obviously play club rugby with him and he's been playing well all year".

The depleted Irish enjoyed 80 percent of the possession and territory as they built a seemingly safe lead of 27-13 going into the last quarter of a gripping match, but Wales rushed in two tries to trail 30-27 with three minutes to go and tension tightening.

There's just nothing like Ireland vs Wales, is there?

As Wales chased a late comeback Ireland were awarded a penalty at a scrum just outside the Wales 22.

Then there were factors that pertained to this year's Welsh game in particular. Warren Gatland opted to start Dan Biggar and drop the exciting, influential Rhys Patchell, who flourished for Wales against Scotland.

Robbie Henshaw, Iain Henderson and Tadhg Furlong are the big-name absentees from the Irish side, failing to recover from injuries sustained in Ireland's last outing against Italy two weeks ago. The final round against the defending champions at Twickenham next month is looming to be a blockbuster and likely the title-decider.

England will be a game revolving much more around the sides defence.

With Schmidt now boasting three wins from seven games against Wales as Ireland coach, and three consecutive wins from this year's tournament, the answer is I was wrong, but the next question for Schmidt is 'where to from here?'

Ireland were finally home safe and remain on track for the Grand Slam. He should target both.

Jacob Stockdale of Ireland on his way to scoring a first half try under pressure from Leigh Halfpenny of Wales during the NatWest Six Nations match between Ireland and Wales at Aviva Stadium on February 24, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland.

Iain Henderson is one three key players absent for Ireland making this one tough to call
Iain Henderson is one three key players absent for Ireland making this one tough to call

Asked if the Ireland squad can keep any Grand Slam talk at bay, Schmidt said: "It's a lot easier for us than it is externally because we do live in a bit of a bubble through the championship". France have not been a consistent force since 2011. Multiple phases from Ireland allowed Aki, making his fifth appearance in the green of Ireland, stretch over for a 13-13 score line.

The 2015 Rugby World Cup represented the All Blacks at their apex under Steve Hansen, while for Schmidt, it was his darkest hour as an Ireland coach.

Meanwhile at Murrayfield, Scotland will come out firing and we are in for an absolute treat, but I believe England have reached the point in their development when they are totally in charge of these encounters.

Old scars do not need to be reopened, but the reality is, since that awful afternoon in Cardiff, Ireland have posted wins over both New Zealand and England while they also ran the two-time defending world champions very close in Dublin in 2016. Can they handle global rugby?

Ireland looked sensational at times against Wales on Saturday.

Conor Murray, taking over kicking duties from Johnny Sexton, looked to have put the game beyond doubt with a penalty to extend Ireland's lead to 10 points, but Steff Evans responded with a try nearly immediately and Leigh Halfpenny's conversion reduced the gap to three.

Opinions will vary surrounding Joe Schmidt's Ireland.

Farrell and Aki will be confident that they can stop any attack launched by Hogg, Maitland and Jones following today's impressive display.

But the facts are that the goalposts have moved for this team.

"We need to tidy up that discipline issue we probably had out there", Wales hooker Owens said. Among pundits. Among former players.

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