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Ireland embracing home comforts at the Aviva

The matchday experience at the Aviva Stadium has come in for a bit of a kicking in recent weeks.

Outside of when Ireland take on the big-hitters of the game, the atmosphere for Irish rugby internationals can feel flat, for a variety of reasons. A Sunday afternoon kick-off against Italy was always to be a bit of a dud, particularly when we’d been treated to such an explosive and rare occasion in Marseille a few days earlier. The fact that the game fell before a down-week in the Guinness Six Nations only gave coverage of the Aviva atmosphere a greater chance to stretch its legs around the news cycle.

If the matchday experience is a bit too corporate, it doesn’t seem to be affecting the players.

This afternoon, Ireland will go in search of their 18th home win in a row when Wales visit the Aviva Stadium, a three year run of games dating back to February 2021, during which time every one of the game’s Six Nations and Rugby Championship sides have come to Dublin and returned home beaten.

With every game that passes, players are forgetting what it’s like to lose at home. Of the starting team to face Wales, only six have lost multiple times at the Aviva Stadium.

Tadhg Beirne’s record at Lansdowne Road reads 18 wins from 19, James Lowe has won 10 of 11 and Jamison Gibson-Park has 16 victories out of a possible 17, that single defeat for each of them coming to France in 2021.

Calvin Nash, Jack Crowley, Ciarán Frawley and Joe McCarthy are yet to experience a home loss, albeit from a small sample size, but for Caelan Doris and Dan Sheehan, a home Irish defeat is alien.

Sheehan has won all 11 of his home games with Ireland

Having missed the 2021 Six Nations, Doris’ home record is a perfect 20 from 20, while Sheehan only knows victory from his 11 Aviva Stadium games in green.

“We speak about playing at home and the importance of that, the importance of representing the jersey, we speak about how we can feed off our own crowd,” Sheehan says, when asked about Ireland’s home record.

“It’s been excellent, I love playing in the Aviva, I love playing at home where families and friends can see you, there is a buzz around the city, we talk about it.”

While Ireland are on a record winning run at home, this isn’t a new phenomenon. Ireland have won 23 of their 24 home games since Andy Farrell took charge in 2020, with a home record of 39 wins in 41 games dating back to November 2016. Regardless of the atmosphere, the Aviva is a hard place to go to.

And while Sheehan says the squad recognise the value of home advantage, it’s something that’s in the back of their minds rather than being a major part of their game preparation.

“We put a huge importance on winning at home and making sure other teams feel the pressure at the Aviva, but I just don’t think we’d be mentioning it during the week of [a game], putting extra pressure on ourselves to just perform first, and the statistic.

“But I totally agree, we want the environment to be a winning environment at home making sure we feed off our home crowd because it helps us massively, our week’s prep is all lined up for a home performance this week and something we talk about is how we can feed off the crowd and how we can keep that momentum up during the game.

Sheehan has scored three tries in two games in this Six Nations

“We don’t put the pressure on ourselves of keeping up the record, it’s very much game focused and one game at a time, there is no point in that I don’t think, we work best when we’re very much next game focused no matter what challenge lies ahead.”

Professional athletes are creatures of habit, and Sheehan says the routine of a home game suits the squad perfectly, as they move from their usual Carton House base into the Shelbourne Hotel on St Stephen’s Green a couple of days out from game day, which the Ireland hooker says gives them a taste of the atmosphere around Dublin.

“We stay in the city so I love the vibe around the city, game weekend, you’re walking around town the day before the game, you see it might be the opposition fans having a few pints around the place, you know on game day, you see the city fill up with green jerseys.

“I like the vibe my family and friends get, their whole week leads up Saturday as well. So I think that’s special and then going in on the bus, whizzing through the crowds of Irish fans who are giving it socks to us back on the bus is brilliant.”

The expectation is that Ireland will bring up an 18th home win in a row this afternoon, with the defending champions overwhelming favourites to continue their push for back to back titles against an inexperienced Wales side.

Ireland haven’t lost at home to Wales in the Six Nations since 2012

Ireland haven’t lost to Wales in a home Six Nations game since 2012, with a 16-16 draw in 2016 the only blemish on Ireland’s card since then, although they did lose to the Welsh in a 2015 World Cup warm-up game in Dublin in 2015.

The last two meetings of the teams saw Ireland win comprehensively 29-7 and 34-10 in Dublin and Cardiff respectively. Sheehan, who will earn his 24th cap this afternoon, says complacency will not be an issue.

“It’s handy having this two-week period before a game where we can have two weeks to sort of review the last two games, and straight into a big test at home against Wales.

“I don’t think anyone is complacent in the group. We’re very much match focused and our preparation is pretty similar every week in that we know exactly when you have to be on, when you can lay back and enjoy people’s company, but as a squad we’re very good at our prep and our planning of the week which allows us to be next-game focused.

“I don’t think there’s any spot in the week that allows us to get ahead of ourselves the way we message things, the way the coaches message things, the way the leaders drive it. I don’t think there’s any place for looking ahead of what we have in front of us,” he added.

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Watch Ireland v Wales in the Guinness Six Nations on Saturday from 1.30pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, follow a live blog on and the RTÉ News app and listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1.

Watch France v Italy in the Guinness Six Nations on Sunday from 2.30pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.

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