Sam Warburton: The change Ireland have made that will lead to ‘years’ of dominance

Colin Newboult
Joe McCarthy for Ireland against France in the 2024 Six Nations.

Joe McCarthy for Ireland against France in the 2024 Six Nations.

Wales great Sam Warburton believes that Ireland have added a dimension to their game, which has made them even better than they were in 2023.

Andy Farrell’s men have begun 2024 impressively with a superb 38-17 victory over France before they followed that up by overwhelming Italy 36-0.

They are on course for a second Six Nations Grand Slam in a row after they romped to the title last year with a series of outstanding displays.

Ireland’s dominance

No one got to within 13 points of Ireland in 2023, as they completely dominated the other sides in the competition.

The Irishmen could well go even better than that this season, especially with Warburton noticing one particular addition to their repertoire in 2024.

“How good have they been in this Six Nations so far? Truly outstanding,” Warburton wrote in his Times column.

“And the next question I would ask is not whether anyone can cope with them in this tournament, but whether anyone can cope with them for the next few years…

“There is something noticeably different about Ireland now, compared even with the World Cup last autumn. I have watched their two matches, and one thought has consumed me throughout: they look so much more powerful than before.”

In previous years, Ireland have not necessarily had the size of other packs, which has potentially left them vulnerable against the likes of France, South Africa, New Zealand, and, prior to 2020, England.

But Warburton believes that times have very much changed, and the former British and Irish Lions captain feels that Farrell’s side are much more powerful in contact than they ever have been.

A previous criticism

“In the past, it has been a criticism thrown at them, and indeed, Leinster, that they could be overpowered, but not now,” he added.

“Everyone has upped their level of physicality, with the lock Joe McCarthy a brilliant addition, but the likes of Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw, Tadhg Beirne, and Dan Sheehan have noticeably increased their effectiveness in contact…

“This is taking them to another level, one which I don’t think any team in the Six Nations can cope with.”

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