Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has reminded his players of the importance of sticking to coronavirus rules in the wake of a costly breach from Wales wing Josh Adams.
Adams has been suspended for his country’s first two Guinness Six Nations matches, including Sunday’s opener against the Irish, after attending a family gathering during a break from international duty.
Farrell believes his squad have so far been exemplary in abiding by Covid-19 restrictions but, following the indiscretion in the rival camp, is eager to avoid a lapse and potential embarrassment.
“Everyone is keeping a stringent eye on protocols and it’s something we’re doing pretty well, and did do pretty well during the autumn as well.”
Wales’ players have since returned a second round of negative Covid-19 test results ahead of the weekend clash in Cardiff.
Asked if he has sought reassurances from Wales following Adams’ error of judgement, Farrell replied: “All teams are getting tested twice a week, so I suppose you can’t get more stringent than that.”
Ireland travel to the Principality Stadium on the back of two thumping Dublin successes over their opponents in 2020 but without a Six Nations win there in eight years.
Wayne Pivac endured a miserable first year as Wales head coach, with many former players and pundits already writing off his side for this year’s tournament.
Farrell was quick to dismiss those suggestions and is preparing for a “war of attrition” and a fired up Welsh team determined to “right some wrongs”.
“I don’t believe that for one second. Our boys are very familiar with everyone in the Welsh squad, they play against them all of the time, some of them are good friends,” he said.
“They’re an experienced side that’s been in good positions before and difficult positions before. I suppose the slate is going to wiped clean at the start of a competition and this is a huge game for both teams.
“In the two camps, we know the truth that it’s going to be a war of attrition.
“We know that we haven’t won there since 2013, which says a lot, and we’re expecting Wales to be 100 per cent at their best. We’ve played them at their best before and come unstuck, we’re preparing accordingly.”
Josh Van Der Flier has been recalled at openside flanker, with Peter O’Mahony switching to blindside and CJ Stander moving into the number eight jersey vacated by the injured Doris.
Meanwhile, wing James Lowe is a surprise inclusion on the left flank, having not played competitively since defeat to England in November.
Farrell, who also has Iain Henderson and Tadhg Furlong returning from injuries on his bench, brushed off fitness concerns.
“It’s the world we live in this day and age. Most of teams are in that predicament as well,” he said.
“We asked the boys to make sure at the end of the autumn that come the Six Nations they were fit and healthy and raring to go.
“We like what we’ve seen from all of the squad over the last 10 days.
Doris, who this week returned to Leinster due to concussion symptoms, was arguably his country’s standout performer during the Autumn Nations Cup.
Asked if the 22-year-old could return against France in round two, Farrell replied: “The only thing that matters at this moment in time is Caelan gets the advice he needs and we’ll see how the coming weeks go.”