WALES will be relishing the challenge today (Saturday, February 24) of facing an Irish side they haven’t beaten in Dublin in the Six Nations since 2012, and which has won its last 10 Championship matches. That’s the view of Ospreys prop Gareth Thomas as he prepares to go head-to head with Tadhg Furlong in a critical front row battle at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

With 38 wins in their last 40 home matches Ireland will go into the game as strong favourites to equal England’s Six Nations record of 11 straight wins. Yet Thomas insists Wales are not down and out after losing by a point to Scotland and two to England.

“We’re gutted because there are such fine margins between winning and losing. Give us those two wins and we would be in a very good place,” Thomas told the Welsh Rugby Union.

“The amount of effort that has gone into the first two games has been great and we know we need to go again in Dublin. We need to be really clean with our discipline.

“We’re getting there, but we just need to be clear in our roles and be able to finish off the job. The Irish should feel confident with the way they have been playing.

“They’re playing really good rugby. We have to shut that down and not let them play on their own terms.”

Not easy to do, as both France and Italy have found thus far in the tournament. Wales haven’t been able to do so much of late, either, losing the two games between the two nations by 20+ points.

“We need to physically dominate. To do that we have to start fast, go at them and not accept their style of play,” added Thomas.

“If we fail to do that we know they are very good at what they do. We have to go at them, go after them and beat them physically.

“If we don’t start like that we’ll have no chance. They are playing some really good rugby at the minute, but looking at their first two games they are being allowed to play like that.

“It’s up to us to go at them defensively to stop their smooth attack. The only way to beat them is to go at them physically, and we need to put a full 80 minute performance not to give them any easy territory.”

Now 30, Thomas has quickly become a senior voice in the Welsh squad even though he is only in his third season as an international. He picked up his 27th cap in the 16-14 defeat at Twickenham and is becoming a cornerstone of the Welsh pack.

“It’s always difficult when you lose a lot of senior boys. The youngsters are listening, learning and working very hard – we’re problem solving as we go,” he added.

“Defensively our lineout was good against England. We will be looking to get up and compete this weekend as well.”

The match is live on ITV and S4C from 2.15pm.