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Seven consecutive defeats since they clinched the Six Nations title with victory over France last spring has left caretaker coach Rob Howley with a considerable headache.
His solution may come in the form of Andrew Coombs, who will make his Test debut alongside Ian Evans in the second row with locks Alun Wyn Jones, Bradley Davies and Luke Charteris all sidelined.
And with Rhys Priestland nursing an Achilles injury, Howley has given Ospreys' Dan Biggar the task of filling the fly-half role as Wales look to end a seven-game losing run that represents their worst results sequence since 2003.
Captain Sam Warburton retains his familiar No.7 shirt whilst Aaron Shingler assumes blindside duties and Howley has reunited the 2009 British and Irish Lions Test front row of Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees and Adam Jones.
Ireland full-back Rob Kearney has stoked the fires with talk of potential panic in the Welsh ranks if things don't go their way early on at the Millennium Stadium.
However Howley insists that, despite their recent struggles - among the Welsh defeats in the autumn was a humbling loss to Samoa - they'll be giving everything to defend their crown.
"We have had a blip but the players will come in as Six Nations champions and title holders. We will not give that up easily," said Howley.
"The injuries have been talked about, but I want to focus on the team going forward.
"We have always believed in talent, and it flourishing in our national environment.
"We are proud of the tag of Grand Slam champions and we want to defend our crown.
"The experience we had of winning the Six Nations has been very special.
"We want to replicate that and having that experience makes us very proud.
"We won't relinquish the title easily and that is our goal because we want to back up our Six Nations campaign of last year."
Ireland have been rocked by their own fly-half saga in their preparations with Jonny Sexton set to move on to pastures new next season.
However the injury problems of their autumn campaign have abated somewhat, Brian O'Driscoll, Sean O'Brien, Rory Best and Kearney are all back and raring to go with only Paul O'Connell and last year's RBS 6 Nations top-scorer Tommy Bowe ruled out for the tournament.
Having skippered the side in O'Driscoll's absence No. 8 Jamie Heaslip will lead the side out at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday afternoon and Kidney said: "I would like to think we are up there with the tournament favourites after coming through November.
"In that first week of the autumn series I don't think there was a day went by where I was told there was not someone available.
"But a few players put up their hands and we will look to build on that.
"Jamie has done the job well with Leinster and was a good captain in the autumn series.
"With Brian O'Driscoll being such an iconic figure in world rugby, it was always going to be a big story when you replace him as captain.
"When you make a decision like this you have to make it in the best interests of the team and the individuals."
|2/2/13||Wales||22 - 30||Ireland|
|5/2/12||Ireland||21 - 23||Wales|
|12/3/11||Wales||19 - 13||Ireland|