Dan Lydiate admits there is no hiding place from the damaging number of penalties Wales have conceded in this season’s RBS 6 Nations Championship.
And the Newport Gwent Dragons flanker accepts Wales can expect to be punished by Ireland’s prolific points accumulator Ronan O’Gara if they do not tighten up their discipline.
Fly-half O’Gara’s first successful kick at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday will take him past 1,000 international points – a feat only previously achieved by Jonny Wilkinson, Dan Carter, Neil Jenkins and Diego Dominguez.
And O’Gara should expect plenty of opportunities unless Wales can reduce their current Six Nations average of more than 13 penalties or free-kicks given away per game.
They have also collected three yellow cards in the tournament – two more than any other country – and were briefly reduced to 13 men on their way to beating Scotland at Murrayfield four weeks ago.
“Discipline is key,” said 23-year-old Lydiate.
“We know we can’t give away penalties, especially playing against someone like Ronan, who will kick them all day. We just can’t give away as many penalties as we have been giving away.
“You have to be street-legal – we can’t have men off the field. Our penalty count, the statistics are up there plain to see, and we can’t shy away from how many we’ve given away.
“A lot of penalties, especially in the contact area, it is a fine line. They can go either way – you can either be a hero or a villain.
“It’s hard, especially for an openside flanker. They live on the edge in games, and it’s trying to find that fine balance.”
Experienced South African referee Jonathan Kaplan will be in charge of Saturday’s clash, which promises to be a high-octane affair given that both teams still have title aspirations.
Wales assistant coach Rob Howley added: “We beat Ireland in 2008, lost by two points in 2009 and then last year a yellow card cost us points.
“Yellow cards are a no-go zone for us, and I am sure it is equally the same with Ireland.
“The physicality of the international game is so important – the inches, the yards – and it’s about keeping your head at those times when you are in defence.
“Sometimes you have been defending for a period of time and you have the ball in attack and you make an unforced error, and similarly when you have been in attack and then you go on defence, you make an error of judgement in terms of discipline.”