So how was your week?
Usually by this point in the 6 Nations I am calm and collected. Usually still recovering from an opening win against a team that hasn’t warmed up into the competition yet. Instead this time, it is Ireland who have yet to reach the gear required to compete.
You will have read hundreds of blogs, listened to every pundit on various media mediums and made your own minds up about what happened last week and we will not mention it again.
This week we take a flight to Rome. Home of the coliseum, pizza, parmesan cheese and a resurgent Italian team looking to take more scalps from top tier nations. Last November they beat the Springboks. While the ‘boks may not have been at their best, it would be Italy’s first big win in a long time and it means that if they do it once, they can do it again.
Most people know that Italy will be tough, they will be prepared and they will be going for it. Especially after last week. They had the Welsh in place for the first half. They looked strong, but again it was the fitness that let them down. Wales had enough in the tank to ease past. This week the Italians will be out to prove they have a gas tank to last the full 80. This mixed with Ireland coming off a loss is a concoction that will make the green army uneasy.
Well yes. The teams has been selected. Ireland brings in Healy and Ryan. No Trimble or Sexton, both apparently are having their injuries managed along with Peter O’Mahony. I am not sure what managed means, but it appears to mean ‘they are light running and won’t be making the starting team this tournament, but they look good in a team tracksuit’.
It is another smidgeon of confusion around the team which is constantly been jumped on by the media. Between that and a late bus, it has been non-stop all week
It is still a strong team, but it is hugely different to a team with Sexton at 10, Payne at 15 and Trimble on the wings (or as backup). Injuries are part of the game, but there is a huge gap between Sexton having a kick to beat England for the title and Jackson. Who would you bet the house on, who would you want to be taking that kick? Nothing against Jackson, he is fantastic, played well on Saturday and is in my fantasy rugby team. But all I am saying is that there is a gap there. Full back is the other position that may cause team confidence issues. Kearney has been improving over the last 12 months but Payne (when fit) is the man for 15, and I think that is where Joe was going until his kidney injury.
As you can see, it is all quite confusing. People where even calling to have Jamie Heaslip not start this week and move Stander to 8. This is the craziness that the Scotland game produced. And this is why Italy has a chance!
The players have to block out a huge amount this weekend and be hugely aggressive. Ireland where passive last week (feel free to read last weeks masterpiece after this to remind yourself) but this week they need to be ready to fight. Rugby is a team based combat sport and if you are not ready to be aggressive then the skills won’t save you.
So, enough talking, what is the prediction? Well Ireland will win with a bonus point. It will be a shaky 15 minutes until the first try and then the foot will be put down. At least 4 tries with a big margin of victory. But we will have a few nervy moments in the opening quarter.
Then we welcome the French to Lansdowne.
As usual @nkeegan or kdubdd on instagram for more.