Reviewing Ireland’s 2016 Six Nations Championship
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Ireland rounded off their 2016 Six Nations with a hard-fought win over Scotland today in the Aviva Stadium.
Joe Schmidt’s men failed to retain their title for an unprecedented third time, but were always going to be up against it at this year’s tournament with a mounting injury list heading into the opening round against Wales. The tournament however wasn’t a complete failure for the men in green with more positives than negatives to extract overall.
Strength in depth
Ireland have proved that they have strength in depth. Before the tournament began Ireland were without Tommy Bowe, Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony and Luke Fitzgerald. Add in the loss of Paul O’Connell through retirement and the fact that Sean O’Brien, Rob Kearney, Dave Kearney and Mike McCarthy played very little due to injury, and you’re left with an Ireland team that was far from full strength throughout the tournament. Yet this depleted side racked up two impressive wins against Italy and Scotland, drew with Wales, lost by a singular point in Paris and pushed eventual winners England all the way in Twickenham.
The emergence of new talent
CJ Stander has been a revelation at this year’s tournament. Man of the match in the opening game, the Munster man started every game and will leave Schmidt with a huge selection headache with Peter O’Mahony returns from injury. We also saw the emergence of Josh Van Der Flier, Ultan Dillane and Stuart McCloskey who will no doubt be part the Irish set-up for many more years to come.
The return to form of senior players
Johnny Sexton had a hugely impressive tournament having coming in on a poor run of form. Munster players such as Tommy O’Donnell, Keith Earls, Simon Zebo, Conor Murray and Donnacha Ryan came into the tournament with their confidence with all of them having a solid tournament, Murray and Ryan had particularly good tournament’s respectively. Jack McGrath also had a sensational tournament and is finally starting to show his potential.
Seeding for Rugby World Cup 2019
Thanks to today’s win, Ireland has secured a top eight ranking which is crucial heading into the next Rugby World Cup as it decides the seeding process.
Style of play
Ireland’s style of play which was heavily criticised during the Rugby World Cup hasn’t changed. Joe Schmidt’s men continue to rely heavily on their kicking game and continue to fail to convert their chances, relying too much on penalties, rather than getting tries.
Ireland went into this year’s tournament with no defence coach following the loss of Les Kiss. This was clearly evident as they were caught napping several times in defence throughout the tournament. Ireland look particularly weak out wide in defence. On a positive note Andy Farrell will take up his position as new defence coach in the coming weeks and brings with him a very impressive record with Saracens, England and the Lions.
The tried and trusted method
Stuart McCloskey was limited to one game against England and really should have been given more opportunities. Jared Payne should have been tried at fullback and Paddy Jackson should have at least been given a cameo based on his current form. Schmidt did well to introduce some new talent and change things around but could have done more. Fergus McFadden should not have been near an Irish squad.