Are Ireland ready for their opening Six Nations fixture against Wales?

Gerry Thornley and Mike Ruddock gave their thoughts on Friday's Off The Ball ahead of their clash at the Aviva Stadium

Ireland's campaign to secure a historic third consecutive Six Nations crown begins on Sunday, when they host Wales at the Aviva Stadium.

The injury crisis that has enveloped the squad has been no secret and with less than 48 hours remaining before the game, how ready are Joe Schmidt's side?

On tonight's Off The Ball, Gerry Thornley and Mike Ruddock both gave their opinions about how they see Sunday's opener going.

"Every team goes through a cycle of maturity and decline and the challenge for the coach is to try avoid the decline and introduce new talent into a settled team, a winning team ideally. That way you can avoid the decline phase and integrate the new talent in and have strength in depth" said Ruddock.

"And I think Wales have done that quite a bit, all you have to do is look at the strength in depth that they've got on the bench."

Ireland have suffered depleted numbers in the forward pack and Gerry Thornley echoed these concerns.

"The forward pack is the single biggest concern ahead of the game" he said.

"They're missing seven of the 13 matchday forwards on duty in the Millennium Stadium last season. We were always going to be missing Paul O'Connell, but you'd feel a whole lot better if you weren't missing the likes of Cian Healy, Mike Ross, Marty Moore and now Sean O'Brien.

"Ball carriers are important in a game like this, especially against Wales, where you'll have to front up and carry hard into them; Sean O'Brien would do that, as would Iain Henderson and Cian Healy.

"Probably Ireland's four best ball carrying forwards [including Paul O'Connell] of the last few years are all missing."

To hear tonight's full rugby full podcast, click the link below.