The Rugby World Cup didn’t end too long ago, and yet talk about the next international tournament is already heating up.
It’s always a funny Six Nations following a World Cup. Coaches tend to use this moment to reassign their team, testing out some new blood while keeping a few of their old boys.
Teams feel disjointed and incoherent as if the Six Nations is just an exercise to clear their heads before they set off on the next four-year campaign. But the Six Nations is so much more than just a stepping stone. It’s a tournament full of rivalries, tension, and even anger – who can forget the famous tunnel fight between England and Scotland in 2018?
For Ireland, however, this tournament means even more. Yet again, we exited the World Cup in the quarter-finals. Even with all the talent, the coaching know-how, and the awesome momentum that carried us through those group stages, we crashed out in the very first knock-out match.
With that result came a lot of disappointment, and perhaps even disbelief. Maybe we weren’t the team we thought we were. Maybe Ireland aren’t cut out to win on a regular basis. It’s a scary time to be an Irish fan, but this Six Nations is an opportunity to set the record straight. But to do that, they’ve got to win.
If you’re a rugby betting fan, you wouldn’t be putting a lot on Ireland right now. Instead, teams like France and England will have the bettors’ confidence. It’s hard to believe saying that a few months ago, but props have to be given to England for reaching that semi-final – and nearly winning it if it wasn’t for a dodgy-looking penalty. They have a knack for performing well under pressure, and they will want to prove that, when push comes to shove, they can still get their hands on silverware.
With this in mind, the Irish team will be facing both France and England away from home. The Stade de France hosts the opening match, and the atmosphere in this epic rugby stadiumis going to be on another level. Twickenham, too, is known to be less than pleasant to away teams, and so both will carry enormous challenges for an Irish team that is hurting.
Scotland will also be hurting, having needed to beat Ireland in order to get out of the groups a couple of months ago. They lost that game and they lost their hope, yet again, of making an impact in the World Cup. They will want to prove that they can beat Ireland, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so – catching the Irish beast while it is still licking its wounds.
The Star In The Lineup
We want to reiterate that Ireland needs to have a good Six Nations. The players need it. The fans need it. The country needs it. If we get knocked out in the quarter-finals of a World Cup and then have a poor Six Nations, it’s going to be tremendously difficult to lift the team back up.
This Six Nations is about dusting ourselves off, looking to the future, and getting our rugby boots back on. We need to do that by topping that table, and so England and France are the teams we must target. If we have a strong performance in Paris, then that will give us momentum, and we can use that momentum to charge through every other team like an enraged bull.
The star in the lineup here is Andy Farrell, our coach. For years, he has given this team confidence and proved to them that they are good enough. This will be his biggest challenge yet, and he needs to shine brighter than ever before to get us ticking.
There will be few Irish fans singing ‘Zombie’ on that opening weekend. In a rugby context, that song has become a bit of an embarrassment after the World Cup failure. But if we start doing well, then we will hear that song again, sung with pride and passion. And that will be the moment Ireland are back.