Ireland and Munster legend Mick Galwey gives the Sunday World his rundown on Ireland’s opposition in this year’s Six Nations.
They are entitled to be clear favourites as they come into the tournament off the back of an unbeaten 2016. However, the Red Rose might wilt in Cardiff or Dublin, as they are two tough away games for England. And never mind coach Eddie Jones’s shiner, they have quite a few injuries to carry as well.
Still, England have gone back to their World-Cup winning format: bully you up front, don’t make mistakes and wait for the try chances to come. It could all come down to the last day in the Aviva Stadium.
They are rebuilding slowly under new coach Guy Noves and one thing is for sure, they will have a go in every game.
If you underestimate France, you’ll pay for it, but Les Bleus must go to both London and Dublin and by the time they get Wales at the Stade de France for the last match, it might be too late for Les Tricolores to do anything this season.
Unlike England, the Welsh will be only delighted to welcome their two toughest opponents, England and Ireland, to Cardiff, where stand-in coach Rob Howley has already announced he wants the stadium roof shut to build the atmosphere.
This is a Lions year, and Wales’ permanent coach Warren Gatland is in charge of the tour to New Zealand. If the Welsh players can win their one-on-ones with their English and Irish counterparts, Warren will pick them for the tour. It’s a huge incentive for the Dragons.
They are the Six Nations dark horses; the team that won’t win the tournament, but might ensure that you don’t. Ireland have to be very, very wary of a Murrayfield banana skin next Saturday.
They’ve a nice little out-half in Finn Russell who is really coming on as a playmaker. He just needs to develop Ronan O’Gara’s balls to call for the drop-goal, as he should have for Glasgow against Munster. When he gets that quality, Russell will be a hell of a player.
Conor O’Shea will be happy if he can lead his team to one win over the five matches. Again, the trick for the other teams is to ensure it is not you they beat.
They have three games in Rome and the November win over the South Africans will give Italy’s players great encouragement. They will be targeting the first two games, against Wales and Ireland, for that tournament-making success.