We’re always optimistic at this time of year because we always forget what went before
Ireland have a decent chance to win the Six Nations but we can’t get carried away with the feelgood factor
Wing Simon Zebo runs in the first try during Ireland’s opening Six Nations game against Wales last year at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images
To listen to Irish people talking about the Six Nations, you’d nearly think we were the defending champions.
You’d certainly think we had won more than one championship since 1985. There’s so much optimism around the place, it’s as if last year has been completely wiped from the memory banks.
It’s coming from players, from supporters, from the press – and this in a year where Ireland have to go to Twickenham and the Stade de France.
In fairness, it’s really no different to what happens every year. Irish squads nearly always arrive at this week full of optimism, a lot of the players come into camp off good Heineken Cup campaigns with their heads up.
They look at the schedule and think, ‘Yeah, we can win there and there and we have no fear of anybody at home’.
It all seems straightforward when there hasn’t been a game played.
I remember being around the squad in Carton House just 12 months ago. There was a huge buzz around the place. You felt it talking to players and chatting amongst the media.
Everybody bought into it. Everybody felt that going to Wales for the first match was going to make or break the tournament. The one thing nobody predicted was Ireland would go there, get a win and still end up having their worst Six Nations in years, not winning another game.
We took it for granted Scotland and Italy would be beaten. We were all wrong.
And yet here we are, the week leading up to another Six Nations and everybody’s full of beans again.
It isn’t hard to see why. Once the country is involved, people just naturally want to get behind their team – they want to think the best of them.
This time around, the New Zealand game is still fresh is people’s minds and we have three provinces in the last eight of the Heineken Cup.
Injury-wise, we’re only really missing Seán O’Brien and Tommy Bowe – and even then, Bowe should be back in time for the England game.
So it’s understandable people are optimistic.
But part of it too is we forget the past very easily. All that optimism last year was understandable at the time because the provinces were going well and we had beaten Argentina in November.
But we forgot it was only the previous summer that New Zealand had beaten us 60-0 and we’d lost to Wales and got a hiding from England in the Six Nations.
I fell into that trap myself. Anyone I spoke to before the Six Nations last year, I told them this Ireland team had a real chance. I thought the tournament was there for the taking with England and France coming to Dublin.
Obviously in the end, injuries had a big part to play and we couldn’t have foreseen them coming in such a glut.