Planet Rugby

State of the Nation: Ireland

19th March 2014 14:00


Ireland Six Nations celeb 2014

Champions: Ireland

As we do at the conclusion of a major tournament, we look at the state of affairs in each of the competing nations. Last up, we assess Ireland!

If only Brian O'Driscoll was 25, not 35. The BOD era ends after 141 international caps (including the Lions) as the centre bows out in style. The Leinsterman couldn't have asked for a better finish after deciding to carry on for one final Championship and Ireland did not disappoint.

Now comes the part of bedding in a couple of options at number thirteen during June and November so they are well stocked for the World Cup. Names that spring to mind are Robbie Henshaw and Darren Cave, but there is more than a feeling that Jared Payne will be the man.

This Six Nations triumph has not been about one man though, far from it, as the whole squad has played its part. Critical players such as Cian Healy and Mike Ross are now ably backed up by Jack McGrath and Martin Moore, which is a front-row luxury this team hasn't had for a long time.

Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton are developing into a world class half-back pairing while Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble and Dave Kearney were also reassuringly solid at the back. Furthermore, one can't understate the importance of Paul O'Connell returning to fitness.

There was a healthy blend to their play as Schmidt's Leinster style came to the fore - this did not please everyone though as former Munster number eight Denis Leamy highlighted the seventeen to four split between those two provinces in the squad, highlighting the absence of Tommy O'Donnell and Simon Zebo as calls that irked him. Of course coach Schmidt can't please everyone but Paddy Jackson's absence in Paris was one decision that surprised.

Ireland fans will not be concerned with negative talk at the current time however as they soak up a special triumph that climaxed over the St Patrick's Day weekend. But once the Guinness has settled and enjoyment turns to preparation, all eyes then switch to facing Argentina in intriguing away fixtures on June 7 and 14. Those games could well see McGrath, Moore, Jackson, Henshaw, Dan Tuohy and possibly Robbie Diack blooded, the latter deserving of his opportunity after consistent form at Ulster. What's good for Schmidt is that he is blessed with real depth in personnel, many of which we've not even mentioned.

He will be closely monitoring the RaboDirect PRO12 run-in, with that league table currently reading 1) Leinster, 2) Munster, 3) Ulster while upcoming Heineken Cup quarter-finals also feature that trio. Add those positives to a Six Nations triumph and it's a great time to be Irish.

Forthcoming Fixtures
All times are local
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne vs Montpellier20:45
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle vs Toulouse14:45
Lyon vs Brive18:30
Oyonnax vs Stade Francais18:30
Castres vs Bay Of Plenty18:30
Grenoble vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulon20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , August 29
Pumas vs Sharks19:10
Saturday , August 30
Griquas vs Cheetahs15:00
Blue Bulls vs Western Province17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Lions19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury vs NorthlandCanterbury vs Northland Preview
Friday , August 29
Wellington vs ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Preview
Saturday , August 30
Counties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay14:35
Southland vs Otago17:35
North Harbour vs Waikato19:35
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki vs Bay Of Plenty14:35
Auckland vs Tasman16:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
All times are local
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato 17 - 46 TaranakiWaikato vs Taranaki Report
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu 7 - 35 AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Report
Bay Of Plenty 27 - 56 TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
Argentina 31 - 33 South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Stade Francais 23 - 20 Lyon
Bordeaux-Begles 30 - 21 Racing Metro Paris
Montpellier 20 - 17 GrenobleMontpellier vs Grenoble Report
Toulon 60 - 19 La Rochelle
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Blue Bulls 30 - 25 Eastern Province KingsBlue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Sharks 19 - 16 CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Report
Western Province 27 - 14 LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
Northland 35 - 5 WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Report
Counties Manukau 29 - 25 OtagoCounties Manukau vs Otago Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse 35 - 6 CastresToulouse vs Castres Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 33 - 15 GriquasPumas vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
Waikato 27 - 58 CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Report
Hawkes Bay 29 - 26 TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Report
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
Sunday , August 17
Tasman 35 - 15 Hawkes BayTasman vs Hawkes Bay Report
Northland 23 - 28 Manawatu
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 16
Australia 12 - 12 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
South Africa 13 - 6 ArgentinaSouth Africa vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Aviva Premiership Table
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