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6 Nations

Ireland’s Six Nations: The Verdict

Here is the verdict we have on Ireland’s Six Nations and what it means for the future

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Disappointment, anger, debates, a team in turmoil, these are what we have been hearing over the past few days since Ireland’s third-place finish in the Six Nations, but what is the reality?

A tournament that started and ended on sour notes, with a flourish in-between. It wasn’t the prettiest of sights, but it has taught us a few things.

The defeats that Ireland suffered, were not so much due to poor quality within the team, however, a lack of motivation. Against England they were smashed in every aspect, conceding an early try, something they also did against Wales in the final round.

The lack of motivation was present throughout the tournament bar the round four game against the French. Nobody will find out the reality of what happened behind the scenes any time soon, but there are some obvious reasons.

Firstly, the team’s half-back partnership where arguably rushed back from injury on the test stage. Conor Murray looked a shadow of himself all tournament, while Johnny Sexton came alive against the French, only to be found wanting against Wales once more.

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Without that cog in the wheel, any team would fail to be at 100%. The solution could be simple, give them time to rest, or drop them and allow someone else to impress while giving them motivation to get back in form.

Injuries were a constant headache for Joe Schmidt and his backroom staff throughout meaning there was a lack of consistency on the team sheet, which didn’t help matters.

A lack of leadership occurred, with the usual motivators dropping off in their approach. Peter O’Mahony was man of the match on two occasions, but when he failed to turn up, nobody picked up the pieces.

The one real positive from the tournament is that it has been confirmed that Ireland have possibly the best lock in the game for years to come in James Ryan.

Memories of Paul O’Connell came to mind as 22-year-old Ryan showed his never say die attitude throughout and was definitely Ireland’s player of the Six Nations.

The worry is that the team spirit seen last year was missing, it looked like a group of individuals rather than a team effort at times.

Individual brilliance was what Ireland relied on for a spark, such as the return of Garry Ringrose and CJ Stander against France.

The positive is that Ireland have all the same players that featured last year as they dominated games, they have the same management and most importantly they have time.

The buzz of last season’s Grand Slam was incredible, but such high standards are hard to replicate week in, week out. This proved that while handing Ireland a reality check.

The negativity shown while the team played poorly was awful. When they were winning people hopped on the bandwagon, but when they have a bad time of it suddenly, they are the worst team around?

The reality is, this was a forgettable Six Nations, but the men in green have still come out as the third-best team in the world rankings and can only improve on their performances.

Lessons have been learned, Schmidt and Rory Best may not have got their fairy-tale endings, but instead of dwelling on a single poor tournament Ireland must now push on.

The quality is there. A quick list of names such as Sexton, Murray, Stockdale, Ryan, Ringrose, Henshaw, Best, Furlong, O’Mahony, to name a few shows the world-class group Ireland are fortunate to have.

This Six Nations was not what people had hoped for, but it has knocked any sense of invincibility out of this team, a team that demolished all they faced a year ago. How this team bounces back is what they should be judged on and all this has done has shown a nation how hard it is at the top, but it’s a challenge Schmidt and Co will grasp with both hands to rectify.

This team is far from done, a new era dawns, before then there is some unfinished business to deal with and Japan could be where Ireland flourish once more.


6 Nations

England team to face Scotland in Six Nations opener

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Ollie Hassell-Collins will make his England debut at left wing, Max Malins returns to the side at right wing and Freddie Steward is named at full back.

Owen Farrell captains the side from inside centre and is joined in the midfield by Joe Marchant. Marcus Smith is at fly-half with Jack van Poortvliet at scrum half.

The front row is made up of vice-captain Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler with Jamie George at hooker. Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum start at lock, while Ben Curry makes his second appearance for England at open-side flanker. Lewis Ludlam and Alex Dombrandt complete the back row.

Jack Walker is in line to make his England debut after being named as a substitute, Anthony Watson could make a first England appearance since March 2021, and if Dan Cole comes off the bench he will earn a 96th Test cap.

Mako Vunipola, Nick Isiekwe, Ben Earl, Ben Youngs and Ollie Lawrence make up the remaining replacements.

“There are few fixtures in the rugby calendar that excite both players and supporters alike more than the annual Six Nations meeting of the Auld enemy as they battle for the honour of lifting the Calcutta Cup,” said Borthwick.

“Another packed Twickenham will witness the start of the next chapter of English rugby in one of the most keenly contested tournaments in the world. There is no doubt this England team shares the supporters’ sense of eager anticipation.

“To a man, the players are determined to play with the commitment, fight and desire that is at the very heart of representing England, the sort of passion that our tremendous supporters rightly expect.”

England Match Day Squad

Starting

15. Freddie Steward

14. Max Malins

13. Joe Marchant

12. Owen Farrell (C)

11. Ollie Hassell-Collins

10. Marcus Smith

9. Jack van Poortvliet

1. Ellis Genge (VC)

2. Jamie George

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Maro Itoje

5. Ollie Chessum

6. Lewis Ludlam

7. Ben Curry

8. Alex Dombrandt

Replacements

16. Jack Walker

17. Mako Vunipola

18. Dan Cole

19. Nick Isiekwe

20. Ben Earl

21. Ben Youngs

22. Ollie Lawrence

23. Anthony Watson


Images & Content from England Rugby
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6 Nations

Scotland name team to face England in 2023 Guinness Six Nations Opener

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Head coach Gregor Townsend has named his squad to face England in the opening fixture of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations this Saturday as Scotland bid to retain the Calcutta Cup.

Leading his side in the championship for the first time, blindside flanker Jamie Ritchie is joined at openside by Luke Crosbie, whose excellent recent form is rewarded with a second start for Scotland, with Matt Fagerson completing the back row.

In the second row, the experienced Richie Gray and Grant Gilchrist, who is named as Vice Captain, resume a partnership that impressed during last year’s Autumn Nations Series.

Pierre Schoeman starts at loosehead prop in what is a 17th consecutive international since his 2021 debut, with the evergreen WP Nel – who reached 50 caps in November – selected at tighthead and George Turner named at hooker.

In the back division, scrum-half Ben White will link up with stand-off Finn Russell, a year on from his try-scoring debut in the Calcutta Cup at BT Murrayfield.

Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones are named as a centre pairing, the former having scored his first tries for Scotland in November’s win over Argentina, with the latter having notched no fewer than four tries against England in as many games against them.

In the back three, Scotland’s record try-scorer Stuart Hogg continues at full-back, with Duhan van der Merwe and Kyle Steyn lining up on the wings.

Townsend has selected a bench with a 5-3 split between forwards and backs, with Glasgow Warriors clubmates Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan and Jack Dempsey, alongside Jonny Gray, listed as pack replacements. George Horne, Blair Kinghorn and Chris Harris complete the matchday squad as substitute options.

Scotland team to face England in the Guinness Six Nations opener on Saturday, 4 February at Twickenham, kick-off 4.45pm, live on STV and ITV

15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs) 96 caps

14. Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors) 5 caps
13. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) 31 caps
12. Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors) 11 caps
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby) 23 caps

10. Finn Russell (Racing 92) 65 caps
9. Ben White (London Irish) 9 caps

1. Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby) 16 caps
2. George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) 30 caps
3. WP Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) 50 caps
4. Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors) 69 caps
5. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) – Vice Captain – 59 caps
6. Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh Rugby) – Captain – 36 caps
7. Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh Rugby) 2 caps
8. Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) 28 caps

Replacements

16. Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) 57 caps
17. Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) 25 caps
18. Simon Berghan (Glasgow Warriors) 31 caps
19. Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs) 72 caps
20. Jack Dempsey (Glasgow Warriors) 4 caps
21. George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) 18 caps
22. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) 38 caps
23. Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby) 39 caps

Tickets for Scotland’s match against Italy at BT Murrayfield in the Guinness Six Nations on Saturday 18 March are still available HERE

Images & Content – Scotland Rugby


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6 Nations

Wales team to face Ireland

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Wales senior men’s head coach Warren Gatland has named his team to face Ireland at a sold out Principality Stadium in the opening round of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations on Saturday 4 February (KO 2.15pm live on BBC and S4C).

Joe Hawkins, who won his first senior cap against Australia in the autumn, makes his Six Nations debut at inside centre. He partners Wales’ most-capped men’s international back George North in the midfield.

Props Gareth Thomas and Tomas Francis join captain Ken Owens in the Wales front row. Alun Wyn Jones and Adam Beard complete the tight five.

Joe Hawkins

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The back row comprises Jac Morgan at blind-side flanker, Justin Tipuric at open-side flanker and Taulupe Faletau at No. 8.

Dan Biggar, who missed the Autumn Nations Series through injury, returns to the Wales XV at fly half. Tomos Williams is at scrum half.

Full back Leigh Halfpenny is in line to make his first start for Wales since the summer of 2021 having featured as a replacement against Georgia in November. Rio Dyer and Josh Adams are selected on the wings.

Owen Williams (fly half) and Scott Baldwin (hooker) whose last appearances in a Wales jersey came in 2017 are named in the match day 23. Williams, along with fellow replacements Dafydd Jenkins and Tommy Reffell, would join Hawkins in making their Six Nations debut if appearing from the bench.

Jac Morgan, Leigh Halfpenny and Josh Adams

Rhys Carre and Dillon Lewis provide the remaining forward cover. Alex Cuthbert and Rhys Webb, who last featured for Wales in the autumn of 2020, are the other replacement backs.

Gatland said: “We’ve picked Joe at 12. He’s a lovely footballer with some great skills. I thought for his first cap he was outstanding so we’ve given him another opportunity. There’s some real competition in the midfield at the moment, so I’m really excited about that.

“There’s a mixture in the team of some experience, some younger players. We were conscious as well picking the bench. We think we’ve got a bench that can come on and have an impact.

“Ireland are the number one team in the world, so they’re going to be coming here with a lot of confidence. You don’t become the number one team in the world without having some pretty consistent performances. We know how good they are and we’re expecting a really tough contest. It’s important for us that we start well, but we need to be in the game at the last 20mins.

“We’ve only had a couple of weeks together but I’m confident that the guys will go out and give a good account of themselves. They’re pretty excited about playing this first game at home.”

Wales senior men’s team to play Ireland in the Guinness Six Nations, Saturday 4 February KO 2.15pm GMT. Live on BBC and S4C:

15. Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets – 97 caps)

14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 43 caps)

13. George North (Ospreys – 109 caps)

12. Joe Hawkins (Ospreys – 1 cap)

11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – 3 caps)

10. Dan Biggar (Toulon – 103 caps)

9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 40 caps)

1. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 17 caps)

2. Ken Owens (Scarlets – 86 caps) captain

3. Tomas Francis (Ospreys – 67 caps)

4. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 41 caps)

5. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys – 155 caps)

6. Jac Morgan (Ospreys – 6 caps)

7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys – 89 caps)

8. Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff Rugby – 95 caps)

Replacements

16. Scott Baldwin (Ospreys – 34 caps)

17. Rhys Carre (Cardiff Rugby – 17 caps)

18. Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby – 45 caps)

19. Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 1 cap)

20. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 4 caps)

21. Rhys Webb (Ospreys – 36 caps)

22. Owen Williams (Ospreys – 3 caps)

23. Alex Cuthbert (Ospreys – 55 caps)

Images & Content – Wales Rugby


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