Wales coach Warren Gatland has been talking in recent press conferences of hopes that the Six Nations opens up this year throughout like it did on the final Saturday last year.

However, the words will surely be shown up for being deliberately distractive, wistful bluster in Dublin on Sunday.

The Red Dragons, Ireland and England were all chasing the title on the final Saturday last year and it was always going to be settled on points difference unless there were some extraordinary defeats against Italy, Scotland and France respectively.

This Aviva Stadium battle should be tense as the outcome has proved to be key to title challenges in the recent past. The teams have won the last four Championships between them and only once in this time span has it gone crazy in terms of tries - at the Millennium Stadium in 2013 when Ireland raced out to a 23-3 half-time lead and hung on 30-22. Gatland won't want a repeat of that or 2014's cosy Ireland win in Dublin. A repeat of 2012's nervy 23-21 success will do just fine (and tries came too).

Plenty of rain will have fallen in the build-up - and afternoon showers and gales are forecast on matchday - too so conditions should be against handling skills and intricate backline moves.

Double defending champions Ireland also have a new-look pack, forced on head coach Joe Schmidt by the retirement of legendary lock Paul O'Connell, multiple injuries in the front-five and the absence of backrowers Chris Henry, Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien.

Gatland will want his charges to test their cohesion and mettle at the set-piece and at the breakdown. He will want his fly-half Dan Biggar to test replacement home full-back Simon Zebo under the high ball and his back row and heavyweight midfield runners Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies to make sure Johnny Sexton is fully recovered from a recent mild concussion.

Bookmakers certainly don't think it is all doom and gloom for Ireland though - they still edge favouritism with most firms because while the Irish provinces have been strangely out of sorts in Europe, the pack call-ups for all their limited or non-existent Test experience are proven performers at club level against their Welsh opponents.

This stance has to be respected and rather than pick a winner, the bets to have are a forward to score the first try at 2-1, Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies to score a try at 9-2 and a drop goal to be scored at 7-4.

The rolling maul was key to both sides' play at the Autumn World Cup and it should be again at the Aviva especially in wet and windy conditions. Both coaches have picked two blindside flankers in their starting team so as well as quick turnovers at the tackle, extra support runs can be expected.

Scrum-half tries have become a feature for Wales in the last year. The injured Rhys Webb got three in last year's tournament and Davies stepped into his shoes at the World Cup and got five including touchdowns against England and South Africa in the quarter-finals.

If the game is close as expected then it would be no surprise to see Biggar fall back into the pocket and settle his side with a drop goal, extend a lead with one or try and secure the win with one. He does it regularly for the Ospreys and his six Test dgs including one against the Springboks in that quarter-final. Sexton isn't shy of dropping a goal when it is needed either and it could well be in this clash.
Forward to score the first try - 1pt @ 2/1
Gareth Davies Anytime Tryscorer - 1pt @ 9/2
Drop goal - Yes - 1pt @ 7/4