Six Nations team-by-team guide: Ireland

Getting to the final game against England unbeaten could be a difficult assignment

 

Prospects

A very good November series provides momentum, the injury portfolio is reasonable, and France and England have to come to Dublin so there is justifiable cause for optimism.

The Coach

Joe Schmidt will be determined to ensure his side builds on wins over New Zealand and Australia. There are a few selection conundrums, back three, backrow and one or two places on the bench but there is a depth of quality not a lack of it, which is important. The lottery of injuries and managing selection for the final two games in eight days will have a massive bearing on the outcome.

The Captain

Rory Best has proven to be an excellent choice to succeed Paul O’Connell, leading by example in terms of the quality of his performance. His work at the breakdown, tackle ethic, and support play complement his lineout throwing in his all round game.

One to Watch

Rob Kearney was in excellent form prior to injury, Simon Zebo has been superb for Munster but making it a three-way dispute for the number 15 jersey is Tiernan O’Halloran. The Connacht fullback, who made his debut in South Africa during the summer, is solid defensively but it his intuitive lines of running, support play, footwork and pace could win him a cap or two in the tournament.

You Bet: 11/4 to win, 11/2 for Grand Slam

Form: WLWWLLW

Last Year: Third

Prediction: Second.

Ireland face a tricky opening with two straight matches on the road and three in total. The addition of bonus points this year adds a different dimension with home sides tending to prosper in the try-scoring columns. France are unproven away from Paris under Guy Noves, notwithstanding and acknowledging the green shoots of November. Wales will be tricky away and England could be a chasing a world record a week later in Dublin. Ireland are good enough to beat England. It’s getting there unbeaten that’s arguably the more difficult assignment.

IRELAND SQUAD

Forwards: F Bealham (Connacht), R Best (Ulster, capt), J Conan (Leinster), U Dillane (Connacht), T Furlong, C Healy, J Heaslip (all Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), B Holland, D Kilcoyne (both Munster), D Leavy, J McGrath, S O’Brien (all Leinster), T O’Donnell, P O’Mahony, D Ryan, J Ryan, N Scannnell, CJ Stander (all Munster), D Toner, J Tracy, J Van der Flier (all Leinster).

Backs: T Bowe (Ulster), A Conway, K Earls (both Munster), C Gilroy (Ulster), R Henshaw (Leinster), P Jackson (Ulster), R Kearney (Leinster), K Marmion (Connacht), L Marshall, S McCloskey (both Ulster), L McGrath (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), T O’Halloran (Connacht), G Ringrose (Leinster), R Scannell (Munster), J Sexton (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster), S Zebo (Munster).

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.