George North scores a try during Wales v Ireland (07.02.21) Credit: Welsh Rugby Union

Players to watch: The men who might be the difference-makers during Wales v Ireland

The Six Nations begins at The Principality Stadium tomorrow

WALES’ Six Nations opener against Ireland, which marks Warren Gatland’s first match back in charge of Wales, has the makings of a Six Nations classic.

Ireland haven’t won a Six Nations game in Wales since 2013, but currently sit top of rugby’s world rankings after an historic series win in New Zealand last year.

As the two teams’ campaigns begin at The Principality Stadium tomorrow (February 4) both will be desperate to win for different reasons.

Here are the players The Cardiffian thinks could have a big say in proceedings.


Ken Owens is the new Wales captain for the tournament. Photo: @principalitysta

Liam Williams

An injury to Leigh Halfpenny means that Liam Williams comes into the side at full-back. This is his first start for his country since the tour of South Africa in the summer after struggling with injuries this season. Since joining Cardiff Rugby in the summer, Williams has made only four appearances. On his day, he is more than capable of running the show, as he has done multiple times in his 81 caps for Wales.

Dan Biggar  

A Warren Gatland mainstay from his first spell in charge. Makes his first start since the summer after missing the disappointing Autumn International series. He has hit form at the right time, kicking 44 points in his last four games for his club side Toulon. That type of output is needed against a deadly Irish side who are high-scoring.

Ken Owens

The Scarlets’ veteran has been made captain by Warren Gatland.  At 36, this might be one of his only chances to lead his country to glory. Dependable in the scrum and a much-needed experienced head to help drag the team back into form. A win against Ireland would be key for the Six Nations campaign and World Cup preparation later in the year.


Dan Sheehan (second from left) and Josh van der Flier (Left) have been devastating in attack. Photo: @leinsterrugby

Dan Sheehan

The Leinster hooker is the second highest try scorer in the United Rugby Championship this season with eight tries. Has not yet transferred his scoring form to his country, bagging two tries in 13 caps for Ireland. Has the ability to cause problems from rucks and mauls.

Josh van der Flier  

The flanker was named the 2022 World Rugby Player of the Year after success for club and country. Has a 100% tackle success rate from 64 tackles this season for Leinster. He also scores points to add to his defensive capabilities and scored a crucial try against New Zealand in that historic series win.

Mack Hansen

The Connacht winger starts for only his 10th cap for Ireland.  This will be a big test of his capabilities on the international stage as he faces off against two of the most experienced around in George North and Josh Adams. Has the potential to put in a game-defining performance.