Pretty damn good. An unspectacular 2021 Six Nations brought a third consecutive third place finish since their 2018 Grand Slam triumph. The 14th minute sending off of Peter O’Mahony in Cardiff in round one was a sliding doors moment for both teams, with Wales going on to claim the championship, and Ireland left playing catch-up after they were squeezed out 13-15 at home to France despite playing well in their second match. 

They got back in the horse with a 10-48 win over Italy in Rome, then out-muscled Scotland 24-27 at Murrayfield, before finishing the campaign strongly with a 32-18 home win over hapless England, but it was during November that things really clicked into gear. 

That Autumn series featured a 60-5 walloping of Japan, an excellent 29-20 triumph over New Zealand (having waited 111 years to taste victory against those opponents, Ireland have now beaten them three times in five meetings since 2016) and a 53-7 dismantling of Argentina. 

With an established game-plan and settled team, combining youthful vigour and experienced know-how, Ireland are the benchmark for consistency in this tournament – and,on their day, they have the ability to topple any opponent which crosses their path. 

The National:


Nothing really to report. They have no significant injury absentees coming into this tournament, and that Autumn form has taken the pressure off head coach Andy Farrell, who was not a universally lauded appointment when he stepped up from overseeing defence in 2019.  

The big message coming out of the Irish camp in the lead up to this tournament is that complacency is not an issue, which is sensible and commendable, and demonstrates that things are trotting along nicely at the moment. 

The only minor concern is that some key men could be undercooked with Leinster, who have contributed 16 players to their 37 strong training squad, having played only two games since 11th December. 

Shifting Andrew Porter from tighthead to loose-head prop – where he started out his career – has been a huge success, completing a world class front-row alongside hooker Rónan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong. That is the basis of a formidable scrum, and Scotland know from bitter experience that a lack of parity in this area can have huge knock-on consequences to the rest of their game. 

If they can match – or at least not be blown away by – the Irish set-piece then Scotland will have a chance in Dublin in round five, if they can’t cope up front then a long and painful final match of the championship is on the cards. 


Anointed to the top job after the 2019 World Cup, all of former Rugby League great Andy Farrell’s previous coaching experience in union with Saracens, England, the Lions, Munster (as an advisor) and Ireland was as a defence expert.  

There was some scepticism about whether he had the personality and depth of experience to move Ireland on after the Joe Schmidt era, but the team is developing as an attacking force and that New Zealand result has silenced his doubters for now – if not completely won them over. 

The ankle injury which will keep son, Owen, the England captain, out of the championship, has killed off that Six Nations sub-plot for this year at least.

The National:

Stand-off and captain Johnny Sexton is 36 years old now and increasingly injury prone. Ireland have been excellent at succession planning during the last 20-years, but they are exposed here because the Leinster man has become such a talismanic figure in the squad that you wonder how the players would cope without his intelligence, intensity and ice-cool nerve in the key No 10 slot. 

Joey Carberry is the next cab off the rank at the moment, followed by Jack Carty, and Michael Lowry could also do the job at a push, but you get the feeling that Ireland are not ready to move on yet. 

Maybe it would be a good thing for them with one eye on the World Cup if head coach Andy Farrell’s hand is forced during the championship – even if that means their immediate goal of claiming a fourth title in nine years suffers. 



Understrength Wales at the Aviva is a great way to get their campaign up and running but daunting away matches against France in round two and England in round four means that Ireland will have to do it the hard way if they are to finish top of the table. One win from those two clashes would be good going and likely mean that they are still in the hunt for the title when Scotland rock up in Dublin on the final weekend – even if they are relying on results elsewhere also going their way. That would be a good thing for the tournament, but not such a great situation for Gregor Townsend and his team. 



Ryan Baird

Finlay Bealham

Tadhg Beirne

Jack Conan

Gavin Coombes

Caelan Doris

Tadhg Furlong

Cian Healy

Iain Henderson

Rob Herring

Ronan Kelleher

Dave Kilcoyne

Peter O’Mahony

Tom O’Toole

Andrew Porter

James Ryan

Dan Sheehan

Nick Timoney

Kieran Treadwell

Josh van der Flier


Bundee Aki

Robert Baloucoune

Joey Carbery

Jack Carty

Craig Casey

Andrew Conway

Keith Earls

Jamison Gibson Park

Mack Hansen

Robbie Henshaw

James Hume

Hugo Keenan

Jordan Larmour

Michael Lowry

Conor Murray

Garry Ringrose

Johnny Sexton (c)


Round 1

Sat 5 February, v Wales (2.15pm, Aviva Stadium)

Round 2

Sat 12 February, v France (4.45pm, Stade de France)

Round 3

Sun 27 February, v Italy (3pm, Aviva Stadium)

Round 4

Sat 12 March, v England (4.45pm, Twickenham Stadium)

Round 5

Sat 19 March, v Scotland (4.45pm, Aviva Stadium)