Thursday, February 2, 2017

Six Nations 2017: Ireland


Last year
A poor Six Nations for an injury ravaged Ireland, in which they were only able to beat Italy and Scotland. That was quickly forgotten with a victory against the South Hemisphere's big three, historic win against the All Blacks in Chicago.

Coach
Many felt that Ireland coach Joe Schmidt should have landed the Lions job, before Gatland got the nod, and for good reason. In his three years in the hot seat he has landed two titles and, when it escaped him last year, he set about beating Australia, New Zealand and South Africa instead. Graham Henry recently called Schmidt a "Very special coach." High praise indeed.

Captain
While talk continues about Dylan Hartley, Alun Wyn Jones and Sam Warburton for Lions captaincy, few outside of Ireland are mentioning Rory Best and that will suit the Ulster hooker down to the ground. An excellent captain with more than enough ability to nail down a starting spot in the Lions test team.

Star player
It’s only been a year since CJ Stander made his debut for Ireland but he already feels like he is part of the core of the team. In a highly competitive position he has made himself virtually undroppable and against the ultra-competitive backrows of Wales and England, his influence can not be under estimated.

One to watch
Leinster's fleet footed centre Gary Ringrose is already being compared legend Brian O'Driscoll. He has now added some physicality to his game and is forging a great centre partnership with Robbie Henshaw.

Strengths
Ireland continue to show an excellent depth in their player pool to overcome injuries that would have crippled them in the past. On the field they have become adept at attacking from virtually every phase and are bossing the breakdowns.

Weaknesses
The news of Sexton’s injury will cause some alarm; Paddy Jackson is a very good outside half, but Sexton has been at the heart of this Ireland team and his game management is incredible. In defence, there are still lots of questions about their tackling ability and they have been a bit leaky.

Prediction
With England travelling to Dublin and the short trip to Cardiff being one they tend to enjoy, Ireland have a fantastic chance to topple England and take the Championship again and make it a green day. However, that largely depends on how they cope without Sexton.
Green Day - Green Day

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