Three wishes unlikely to be granted but Lions can grasp long-awaited Test series success
FROM THE BLINDSIDE:The prospects for Irish rugby don’t look great but the Lions can win Down Under, writes ALAN QUINLAN
At the start of a new year, all you have is wishes and hopes. Some of them will come to pass and some of them won’t but the great thing about this time of year is that anything’s possible. Any genie worth his salt would give me three wishes, so here goes. Time will tell whether any of them work out.
1 That Ireland win the Six Nations
I was genuinely happy for the Ireland team after the November internationals. We judge them by very high standards and we’re very demanding, expecting so much success from them every year.
After what happened at the end of the New Zealand tour with the 60-point hammering, the tide was starting to turn against them. Public opinion wasn’t on their side. But the win over Argentina changed all that.
They’ve been inconsistent in the years since winning the Grand Slam and that inconsistency drives people mad. If they just weren’t up to it, if the players just weren’t good enough, that would be one thing. But we’ve seen them beat Australia, we’ve seen them beat England consistently, Wales and Argentina as well. We’ve seen how good they can be and we know that a return of just one Six Nations title doesn’t do them justice.
The tour to New Zealand last summer summed it all up in a way. One week, they’re playing with massive heart and commitment and skill and very nearly turning the All Blacks over for the first time in history. Then the next, they’re being run ragged and losing by 60 points. You can’t blame the public for getting fed up when that happens.
So ending the November series on an upbeat note was vital for the Six Nations. They go into it now with a spring in their step, with young guys putting up their hands to stake a claim. The likes of Craig Gilroy, Simon Zebo, Ian Henderson, Luke Marshall and David Kilcoyne are in the mix now, putting pressure on the established players.
There’s confidence in the group again and with the likes of Brian O’Driscoll and Rob Kearney coming back from injury that confidence will only grow.
Will It Happen?
Sadly, it doesn’t look likely. The bookies have Ireland down as third or fourth favourites behind France, England and in some cases Wales, which I think is about right. Now, a win in Wales in the first game is very possible and the confidence and momentum Ireland would take from it could carry them a long way. Lose that one though and even with England and France coming to Dublin, the Six Nations will feel a little bit like it’s over before it has even really started – Grand Slam gone, Triple Crown gone, Six Nations more than likely gone, all on the opening weekend.