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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

Paul O’Connell Joins Ireland Coaching Group

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Former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell has joined the Ireland national coaching group as forwards coach with Simon Easterby to focus on defence.

Paul was capped 108 times by Ireland and captained the team to Six Nations success in 2014.  O’Connell’s distinguished playing career also included seven Test match appearances for the British & Ireland Lions across three tours and two Heineken Cup titles with Munster.

Since retiring from playing in 2015, Paul has held coaching positions with the Munster Academy, Ireland Under-20s and Top 14 side Stade Francais.

O’Connell commented:

“I am really looking forward to working with Andy and the rest of the coaching group. I worked with Simon as a player and am looking forward to working with him again. It’s an exciting young group of players to be involved with and there are talented forwards coming through across the four provinces that will no doubt be pushing for international selection in the coming months and years.”

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell commented:

“Paul brings a wealth of rugby knowledge with him and as forwards coach he will have responsibility for the forwards including the line-out working alongside John (Fogarty). He will also be another strong voice and leader within the group.

“Simon (Easterby) has a real passion for defence and having developed Ireland’s forward play over the past six years with the additional responsibility for the defence over the past 12 months, he will now be able to focus his energy and rugby intellect on this area of our game.

“The weekend’s Interpro games and the European fixtures in the weeks ahead will give players the opportunity to push for selection for the Six Nations squad. The squad will not be selected until after the Champions Cup Round 4 fixtures have been completed.”

IRFU Performance Director, David Nucifora, commented: “Paul is a young Irish coach with a huge amount of international rugby experience. We have been keen to find the right opportunity for him within Irish Rugby and we think the fit with the national squad will work well. He joins the national coaching group with immediate effect as they prepare for the upcoming Six Nations Championship.”

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Scotland name strong team for Wales

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Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

Issued by SRU

Stuart Hogg will return to the Scotland starting line-up as Captain for the final round of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations against Wales on Saturday 31 October – kick-off 2:15pm.

Fresh from securing the European and Premiership double with his club Exeter Chiefs, Hogg plays at full back as one of five changes to the starting XV from the Scotland side that defeated Georgia 48-7 last week.

Finn Russell lines up at fly-half after winning his 50th Scotland cap in the Georgia victory at BT Murrayfield on Friday night, and is joined in the half-backs by Glasgow Warriors’ Ali Price.

In the back division, Blair Kinghorn shifts to the wing from full-back and replaces Edinburgh teammate Duhan van de Merwe, who is named among the replacements. James Lang and Chris Harris continue their centre partnership after playing together against Georgia.

In the pack fellow Exeter Chief Jonny Gray comes into the second row and Scarlets’ Blade Thomson is selected at number 8 and will run out on his club ground on Saturday in Llanelli.Hooker Fraser Brown is named as Vice-Captain and packs down with Rory Sutherland and Zander Fagerson in an unchanged front row.

Scott Cummings also retains his starting place to partner Gray in the second row.Edinburgh pair Jamie Ritchie, also a Vice Captain, and Hamish Watson make up the back-row with Thomson.

In the replacements Harlequins scrum-half Scott Steele could make his Scotland debut if called into action.

Adam Hastings and van de Merwe complete the backline replacements. Townsend can also call upon the same front row of Oli Kebble, Stuart McInally and Simon Berghan as featured in against Georgia, alongside Worcester Warrior Cornell du Preez and Edinburgh’s Ben Toolis from the bench.

“As a group we are very much looking forward to finally completing our fixture against Wales and returning to play Guinness Six Nations rugby again. We were highly motivated back in March, and that extra edge has come back into our training and preparations this week.
Scotland Head Coach, Gregor Townsend

“It’s been great to bring in quality and experience to our starting line-up with players such as Stuart, Jonny and Finn who have been involved in some high-level games in recent weeks. We were also encouraged by Blade’s display at the weekend for Scarlets, which is a timely boost given last weekend’s injury to Matt Fagerson.

“We are expecting a physical battle against a very good side, one which we will be working hard to stay in the fight and to finish the fight in Llanelli. Ultimately, this game provides an opportunity for us to end this extended championship on a positive note and go into the Autumn Nations Cup with some added belief in what this group of players can achieve.”

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Wales XV announced for 6 Nations finale v Scotland.

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Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones will become rugby’s most capped international on Saturday when he makes his 149th test appearance (140th for Wales plus 9 British & Irish Lions caps).

Jones levelled the record last weekend but will take the honour for himself at Parc y Scarlets this weekend as Wales face Scotland in their re-arranged Guinness Six Nations finale (14.15 KO BBC & S4C).

At the other end of the international spectrum, Cardiff Blues back-row Shane Lewis-Hughes will make his first test appearance for Wales in a back-row alongside experienced Lions duo Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau.

Will Rowlands, fresh from the English Premiership Final with Wasps, comes into the side to make his first start for Wales and he packs down alongside captain Jones.

European Champion and English Premiership winner Tomas Francis comes into the front-row alongside Rhys Carre and Ryan Elias.

In the backline Gareth Davies partners Dan Biggar with Owen Watkin coming into the midfield alongside Jonathan Davies.

Liam Williams returns to the back-three to feature alongside Josh Adams and Leigh Halfpenny.

On the bench Sam Parry, Wyn Jones and Dillon Lewis provide the front-row replacements with Cory Hill and James Davies completing the forward contingent. Lloyd Williams comes straight into the matchday squad and provides backline cover along with Rhys Patchell and Nick Tompkins.

Issued by WRU

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