We take a look at six reasons why Joe Schmidt’s Ireland side could be on course for a third successive Six Nations title…
Pretty simple really. Over the last couple of years, Schmidt has proven that he knows exactly how to adapt his side’s game plan to claim victories, even in the tightest of match ups. With Schmidt at the helm, Ireland will head into the 2016 Six Nations as prepared as any other side out there, and will ensure they have a game plan suited to defeat each of their opponents.
2.They’re experienced winners
It may not always have been pretty, and it may have come down to the wire, but Ireland have shown over the last couple of years that they have what it takes to win the Six Nations title. Although they have lost some of their elder statesmen, they still have plenty of experience throughout the spine of the squad, ensuring they will remain as competitive as ever.
3.Competition for places
Although some key areas such as the second row are looking a little light due to injuries and retirements, in most positions Ireland have genuine competition for places. For the first time in forever it seems Jamie Heaslip will have competition for the number 8 shirt with CJ Stander coming through, whilst Stuart McCloskey will be challenging for a start in the midfield.
4.The kicking game
Say what you want about it being ‘boring’, there’s no doubting that Ireland’s kicking game is miles ahead of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. With Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray orchestrating things from half back, and their backs continuing to prove to be amongst the best under the high ball, Ireland’s kicking game will remain one of their biggest strengths.
5.Players looking to make a mark
Whether it’s Rory Best looking to prove his worth as Ireland’s new captain, or Stuart McCloskey looking to establish himself in the midfield, there are players everywhere with a point to prove. Given the poor form of Munster and Leinster this season, there will also be a number of key players looking to put the disappointments of their club season behind them during the Six Nations.
6.A focus on more expansive rugby
Ireland have been clinical in everything they have done during the last two Six Nations, but in all but the odd game they have played to a strict game plan that has been considered conservative by some. All the noises out of the Ireland camp at the moment are pointing to Ireland playing a more expansive style that should add tries to their existing solidarity to make them even tougher.