Attacking rugby on the rise suits Ireland; Sigerson Cup a battle in GAA’s fixture wars

The Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with The Irish Times sports team

Creative Ireland have the necessary mindset for sustained success, writes Gordon D’Arcy, as the countdown is on for Ireland’s Six Nations game against France on Saturday. Attacking rugby is on the rise thanks in part to the game being sped up. But he writes “Ireland must look as to why they surrendered 70-plus per cent possession after their opening 25-minute blitz and were unable to generate another consistent attacking platform – Ross Byrne had a positive impact – until the game entered the final 10 minutes.” Allowing for a “30-minute purple patch” at the outset of the game, Irish winger James Lowe readily admits Ireland allowed Wales too much access into their 22. But he’s certainly dismissive of France being below their best in their 29-24 bonus-point win in Rome on Sunday.

Ross Byrne is relishing being back in the inner circle with Ireland as the outhalf has put in the hard yards with Leinster to eke out opportunities at international level. Byrne’s durability, volume of games, and numbers are probably the best of any Irish outhalf in recent years, and his winning ratio has gone to a new high so far this season. He’s started and/or finished 15 of Leinster’s 17 wins, and now two Irish victories as well. Meanwhile, could we see an eight-team tournament in the future? An argument for an expansion will grow as Italy’s fine form makes case for expanding competition, and with a new chief at the helm it might just happen. If you want all the angles on this year’s Six Nations, sign up for The Counter Ruck, our new weekly rugby newsletter from Gerry Thornley.

In GAA, Seán Moran writes the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups are the last frontier of the fixture wars. Colm O’Rourke’s concerns about player welfare are valid but the obvious solution mightn’t suit county managers. “These days coaches admit they are doing well to get intercounty players for matches, never mind training. The schedules no longer allow the excitement of the finals weekend that used to be part and parcel of Fitzgibbon and Sigerson involvement.” The Higher Education GAA chairman says moving competitions before Christmas would devalue them. Elsewhere in camogie, former Kilkenny camogie star Anne Dalton reflects on her playing career and talks about parenting as part of a same sex couple during a Laochra Gael episode. She was always hungry for success and said “For me anyway, when people ask about All-Irelands, the first ones you think of tend to be the losing ones because hurt can have a longer impact feelings-wise than wins. You are not entitled to win anything, but I feel like I wish I had won more.”