Kidney: European form counts for nothing in 6 Nations
Ireland coach Declan Kidney has dismissed recent Heineken Cup form as having any relevance on tomorrow's RBS 6 Nations opener against Wales in Cardiff.
While Ireland will be represented by Munster and Ulster in this season's European quarter-finals, Welsh trio Cardiff Blues, the Scarlets and Ospreys all made pool stage exits and won just three games between them.
It is a contributory factor why Kidney's team have been installed by most bookmakers as favourites to beat Wales for the first time in four attempts, but he was in cautious mood after today's final work-out at the Millennium Stadium.
"European form has nothing to do with it," he said.
"We are playing the Grand Slam champions in their own back yard. It will be a real Test game, and that is the excitement and the challenge.
"It is a clean slate for everybody and seeing who gets out of the traps first at half-past-one tomorrow."
The stadium roof will be open - Wales' preference was for it to be shut - after both teams failed to reach agreement. When that happens under Six Nations rules, it stays open.
Both squads trained in fine conditions today, though, and tomorrow's forecast is for more of the same with no rain expected.
"With the weather forecast the way it is, it's good," Kidney added. "65,000 people against you is enough, without closing the roof and making it feel like 130,000.
"If the weather did turn, we have been training in fairly torrid conditions for the past week or more. I suppose it's a fresh-air game, you know."
And skipper Jamie Heaslip added: "I played here when the roof was closed in the (2011) Heineken Cup final.
"It's pretty intense and pretty loud, and letting a bit of the noise escape out of the roof isn't necessarily a bad thing. It is pretty humid down on the pitch (when the roof is closed).
"Outside of Ireland it's probably my favourite ground to play in. It is a great crowd and a great atmosphere."
Leinster number eight Heaslip will captain Ireland for the first time in a Six Nations game tomorrow, and he is expecting a fearsome challenge from Wales.
"Their pack, in general, is pretty mobile," he said. "They play with a good bit of width and the pack gets through a lot of work. They've a really good work ethic.
"We are in good shape and feeling pretty excited. We've got a good group of players who are pretty focused on their job, and if we execute our job then hopefully we will get the outcome we want.
"We are very clear on the job we have to do, and we are as clear as we have ever been on the shape and how we want to play, in general."
Kidney, meanwhile, dispelled any injury fears surrounding full-back Rob Kearney, who took a bump in training on Tuesday, but trained fully yesterday and today.
"The players are fairly keen all right," Kidney said.
"Small things will decide the game, and it is a about keeping the power dry now until half one tomorrow."