9:24am Wednesday 5th February 2014
WALES lock Andrew Coombs is relishing another crack at the Irish a year after he produced a whole-hearted performance to show he belongs on the international stage.
The Newport Gwent Dragons captain will start in the second row against Ireland in the colossal Six Nations showdown at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm).
Coombs, who comes in for injured former Rodney Parade favourite Luke Charteris, was the surprise package of the 2013 tournament after being handed a shock debut against Ireland at the Millennium Stadium.
The Dragons captain produced a trademark tenacious, abrasive display but was unable to prevent a 30-22 loss – Wales' only defeat on their way to the title.
It was a life-changing display by Coombs to ensure that a reunion with the Irish in Dublin will be his eighth cap and he is relishing a tussle with Lions great Paul O'Connell.
"It's nice to get the chance to start against Ireland again," said the 29-year-old.
"Last year it wasn't great to make a mistake with my first touch in international rugby (spilling the ball in contact) but if you don't get back up and impress then you are probably never going to play for your country again.
"It was important that I collected my emotions and carried on playing as I normally would. It turned out to be a fantastic tournament and I am so happy to be back in to have another crack at it.
"It's going to be difficult to keep my spot with the players around me but I am not going to change anything; I'll just go out there and give it my all, playing as I always do.
"If that's good enough then great, if not then that's just unfortunate for me."
Coombs came off the bench against the Azzurri in Cardiff last week but acknowledges the need for improvement against an Irish side that thrashed Scotland.
"We do need to raise our game against Ireland, who are one of the best teams in the Six Nations," he said. "It's going to be difficult but we are more than capable of winning.
"They are an all-round team; they have a good pack and an excellent back line so we will have to be at our best this weekend to keep them out and to win the match."
The Dragons lock joins forces with Alun Wyn Jones in the second row for what promises to be a feisty battle with O'Connell and giant Leinster lock Devin Toner.
"Ireland are one of the best lineout teams in the world so it's important that we do our analysis work on the computers," said Coombs.
"You have to be aggressive in defence against their driving lineout, which is an area of the game that we are always working on."
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