Ireland field a strong team – Playnbrag
Ireland field a very strong team for their opening game of the 6 Nations, against Scotland (Saturday, Feb 3rd, at 2.25). It is Ireland’s best side, with the exception of Jonny Sexton. Who has been ruled out of the game through injury.
Paddy Jackson takes Sexton’s place at 10, and is a more than capable replacement. As he proved on Ireland’s tour of South Africa last summer. Munster’s Ian Keatley is the replacement out-half.
Ian Madigan should have been a strong candidate, but coach Joe Schmidt has stated that he won’t pick players who ply their trade outside Ireland (Madigan plays for Bordeaux). Though that never affected Sexton’s chances when he played for Racing.
Sean O’Brien was also an injury concern but he has come through and is picked at 7. Josh Van der Flier provides cover on the bench. Tommy Bowe is picked as a sub. Bowe hasn’t played for Ireland since the 2015 World Cup.
Rob Kearney is picked at full-back. He’s approaching his best form. It will be a great match up between Kearney and Stuart Hogg, his opposite number. Hogg has been tipped to be the Lions starting 15 against New Zealand. Kearney will want to prove the punters wrong.
It’s a very strong team all round, probably the strongest side in the 6 Nations, player for player. Exciting prospect, Gary Ringrose, makes his first appearance in the 6 Nations, after starring in Ireland’s November series.
Head to head record
Ireland have won the last 4 tests against Scotland, including a 40-10 drubbing the last time the 2 teams faced off in Murrayfield (2015). Scotland are a tough team and can’t be underestimated but Ireland should beat them, comfortably.
Ireland’s previous 12 months
The last 12 months was one of the best ever periods for Irish rugby, with wins over South Africa, Australia and a first-ever win against the All Blacks. It was the first time that Ireland had beaten the 3 Southern Hemisphere giants in the same calendar year.
November 5th 2016 was the greatest day in the history of Irish rugby. Not only did it end Ireland’s drought against the All Blacks (after 111 years and 28 losses and 1 draw) it also ended New Zealand’s record run of 18 consecutive victories in test rugby, including a World Cup and Rugby Championship.
But it will all be for nought if Ireland can’t muster the goods when it really matters. To be a truly great team, Ireland need to build on their performances and be consistent in their victories.
Where Ireland are at the moment
As it stands, Ireland are the best team in Europe, in terms of player strength. Their closest rivals are England, who went unbeaten in 2016, and won the Grand Slam.
England are Ireland’s biggest rivals for the 6 Nations trophy but have been beset by injuries. It is on Ireland to prove their worth and win their first Grand Slam since 2009. Anything less won’t be good enough.
France, Wales and Scotland are tough teams. Even Italy. But Ireland are better than them, in terms of results and performances over the last year. And now it’s time for Ireland to show it.
The upcoming Lions Tour
There is also a Lions tour at the end of the season to motivate the players, in Scotland, Wales and England, as well as Ireland. Most of the Irish team can compete for a place, but Furlong, Jack McGrath, Toner, Stander, O’Brien, Heaslip, Murray and Henshaw are almost confirmed a place, with Best one of the main candidates for captaining the tour.
Bonus points will be competed for for the first time in 6 Nations history. Bonus points for a team that scores 4 tries or a losing side that stays within 7 points of the winner. Hopefully it will provide the players with motivation to play a more exciting brand of rugby.
A round up of the weekend’s games
Ireland should beat Scotland by 15 points, England against France will be closer, with a resurgence by the French. Wales should overcome Italy. The 4-try bonus point will be most detrimental to the Italians, who have never scored 4 tries in a 6 Nations match.
Playnbrag – Challenge your friends on the Six Nations and 9 other sporting events for Fun, Beer or Cash and see who know’s best!