Six Nations 2022: Optimism abounds for Andy Farrell’s Ireland

Eight-consecutive wins - including over the All Blacks - has boosted hopes of the title


Last year: 3rd

Odds for title: 11-4

Eights wins in succession dating back to last season's Six Nations Championship and a victory over New Zealand in November has fostered genuine optimism for the upcoming tournament. Defending champions Wales have a number of high profile injuries so getting them up first at home is beneficial.

The last time Ireland claimed a Grand Slam (2018) they won in Paris and London which represents the fixture schedule in this campaign. A top two finish would constitute a very good tournament and the team will face an early examination of their credentials when they travel to France on the second weekend.


There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

The coach

After a modest start to his tenure Andy Farrell has overseen a transformation in Ireland’s playing style that has been accompanied by results, the pinnacle of which was the win over the All Blacks. A challenge now is to continue that progress, the evolution in style without compromising results while continuously updating and replenishing the playing roster.

Ireland can field a very strong first team capable of beating the world’s best but the depth chart needs a little attention. Farrell and his coaching team deserve credit for the manner in which they meshed style and substance and if Ireland continue to push those boundaries then they will be very competitive.

The key man

The dog-eared answer is Johnny Sexton because no one has been able to consistently prove that they can match his game management skills. The search for a potential successor or deputy continues apace but Sexton remains Ireland’s premier outhalf by some distance for now.

His big match temperament, that ability to execute in high pressure moments, is priceless. Under Andy Farrell not everything from an attacking perspective has to go through the Irish captain; it removes a little of the burden. The captaincy hasn’t been a distraction to date. Tadhg Furlong would be another whose presence greatly enhances the team.

The one to watch

The 24-year-old Enniskillen native Robert Baloucoune is a rare commodity in Irish rugby in recent times, a wing with top end international pace. A try scoring debut against the USA last summer was followed by a second cap against Argentina in November.

He’s been unfortunate with injuries from time to time but as he demonstrated most recently during Ulster’s Champions Cup victory over Clermont Auvergne he is not only a try scoring threat but possesses the game awareness and vision to bring teammates into play. He’s very good aerially and is also a player who likes to be proactive in terms of his defence and tackling.


Saturday February 5th, Ireland v Wales, Aviva Stadium (2.15pm)

Saturday February 12th, France v Ireland, Stade de France (4.45pm)

Sunday February 27th, Ireland v Italy, Aviva Stadium (3pm)

Saturday March 12th, England v Ireland, Twickenham (4.45pm)

Saturday March 19th, Ireland v Scotland, Aviva Stadium (4.45pm)