Barely 24 hours after Dublin turns green for today’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, the Irish capital – and even the most remote corner of the island, really – will be in for another real party. In this case it will not be the day of the patron saint of the country, but a sporting conquest: that of Six Nations, no less.
The thing is Ireland will arrive at the match of the last appointment with the enormous possibility of consecrating themselves. Unbeaten leader with a perfect score, he has converted over 120 points in the tournament, scored just 56 and has 16 tries for and just five against. Against France, the other team with slim chances of winning the title, the numbers play into a side that is dependent on themselves to succeed. And no less than at home. And nothing less than against England with the morbidity of the historical, political and social that that party represents (this Saturday at 14:00 Argentine time).
But the Irish are far from just the best in the Six Nations and one of the best teams in the world (they are first in the table) just for their victories. I’m also up for their game. For that rugby that today makes them serious candidates to win the World Cup for the first time.
Ireland’s success is actually the fruit of a process that began with Joe Schmidt and to whom today Andy Farrell take advantage of it. The current manager, who is also the father of England starting half Owen, has given his team the authority to win games that he hadn’t won before. And this is the product of experience and work. And of the maturity reached as far as the game is concerned.
Ireland are a team that have formidable ball possession thanks to a formidable pack of attackers, led by Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris in the third row, very close contacts, with a powerful line and a very good scrum (there are many substitutions in the front row, for example).
Furthermore, it is a team that attacks very well, that has excellent alternative run-up lines, that plays very well inside the opposing defense and whose trocar knows how to create space before one-on-one. This feature was undoubtedly a trademark of the highly successful Super Rugby garments.
Defensively they are solid and Ireland are, in general, a very intense team during the 80 minutes of a match. Furthermore, they are a team that has significantly improved discipline, which has attracted attention for the impetus with which they play. In the Six Nations the number of penalties almost always fell into single digits and that detail, at the highest levels (and even more in a World Cup), is decisive when seeking victory. It’s very difficult to play with intensity without committing violations.
Their volume of play in general is very good and they have a very large squad, with different alternatives everywhere. An example: Tadhg Furlong was injured as a mainstay, who had been one of the figures in his team, he was replaced by Finlay Bealham and the front row never suffered. Another: In the second row are four men of notable equals and extensive international experience beyond the ownership of Ryan Baird and James Ryan.
The backs are in a sublime moment. Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw shine in center field; and the last three also correspond to a very high level. The two wines are the New Zealander James Lowe and the Australian Mack Hansen (they won the position) and the full-back is Hugo Keenan, who comes from the Seven and is almost unbeatable in heads-up.
Then Johnny Sexton appears, another cause of the Irish moment. The opening -formed in Leinster by Philip Contepomi when the former Los Pumas captain made his mark on rugby in that country, it’s the brains of the team that at 37 keep breaking him. In a team with many leaders, he is the most important. And irreplaceable. A crack with all the letters that no one in Ireland can obscure in his position.
The Farrell imprint in which Captain Sexton actively participates has changed the minds of the Irish and set the bar high. Ireland has changed its mind and is not afraid of anyone. With France, today, they are fighting to be the best team in the world and the powers of the southern hemisphere are lagging behind. The All Blacks themselves have had to surrender to the strength of a team that knows they are faced with a great opportunity. He has never even made it to the semifinals of a World Cup. In France 2023 he will have an appointment with history. And he has arguments for doing so.
Jason Root is the go-to source for sports coverage at News Rebeat. With a passion for athletics and an in-depth knowledge of the latest sports trends, Jason provides comprehensive and engaging analysis of the world of sports.