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
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 24
Munster vs Saracens19:45
Saturday , October 25
Ulster vs Toulon13:00
Scarlets vs Leicester19:45
Bath vs Toulouse15:15
Montpellier vs Glasgow17:15
Northampton vs Ospreys17:15
Sunday , October 26
Clermont Auvergne vs Sale13:00
Castres vs Leinster15:15
Wasps vs Harlequins17:15
Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 9217:15
More European Rugby Champions Cup fixtures
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Thursday , October 23
London Welsh vs Bordeaux-Begles19:45
Friday , October 24
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:30
Grenoble vs London Irish18:30
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Newcastle19:30
Brive vs Zebre19:30
Edinburgh vs LOU Rugby19:45
Saturday , October 25
Bucuresti vs Stade FrancaisTBC
Rovigo vs Cardiff Blues14:00
Exeter vs Connacht15:00
Oyonnax vs Gloucester19:45
More European Rugby Challenge Cup fixtures
Recent Results
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 19
Ospreys 42 - 7 Benetton TrevisoOspreys vs Benetton Treviso Report
Toulouse 30 - 23 MontpellierToulouse vs Montpellier Report
Toulon 28 - 18 ScarletsToulon vs Scarlets Report
Leinster 25 - 20 WaspsLeinster vs Wasps Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
London Irish 70 - 14 RovigoLondon Irish vs Rovigo Report
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International Match
Saturday , October 18
Australia 28 - 29 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
More International Match results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sale Sharks 26 - 27 MunsterSale Sharks vs Munster Report
Saracens 30 - 23 Clermont AuvergneSaracens vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Racing Metro 92 20 - 11 NorthamptonRacing Metro 92 vs Northampton Report
Glasgow 37 - 10 BathGlasgow vs Bath Report
Leicester 25 - 18 UlsterLeicester vs Ulster Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
LOU Rugby 28 - 18 London WelshLOU Rugby vs London Welsh Report
Zebre 24 - 33 Oyonnax
Cardiff Blues 37 - 14 Grenoble
Stade Francais 22 - 38 Newport Gwent D'gons
Bayonne 30 - 24 Exeter
Connacht 48 - 12 La Rochelle
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Currie Cup
Lions 50 - 20 SharksLions vs Sharks Report
Western Province 31 - 23 Blue BullsWestern Province vs Blue Bulls Report
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Taranaki 49 - 30 AucklandTaranaki vs Auckland Report
Manawatu 23 - 18 Southland
Tasman 26 - 6 CanterburyTasman vs Canterbury Report
More ITM Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 17
Harlequins 25 - 9 CastresHarlequins vs Castres Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Bordeaux-Begles 13 - 15 EdinburghBordeaux-Begles vs Edinburgh Report
Newcastle 43 - 19 Bucuresti
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table