Patience

Nobodies good their first time, anybody who says they were is a filthy liar and undoubtedly wears too much hair gel and never stops talking about how much they can lift.

We can’t expect miracles from Ireland in this years Six Nations. That’s not to say expectations should be low, just reasonable. We spoke this week to Keego, the Couch Pundit, and former Ireland and Munster star Fiona Hayes. Search Post to Post Sport on all Podcast platforms.

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One thing that came up from Keego is that we can’t turn our backs on this Irish team, like many did early last year after a heavy defeat to England. I’d echo that sentiment. Rugby is one of those sports that has become fashionable to show up to and claim to enjoy. That is when things are going well. As soon as the excrement comes into contact with the fan, their gone before you can question why anybody left that much excrement near the fan. This Ireland team needs time.

2019 was a harsh reality check, after a 2018 that was the best year for any Irish international side in sport. We can’t expect Ireland to come into this Six Nations and blow everybody away. We should expect their to be a game plan, and a win, but not perfection. Not champagne rugby, but a nice ginger ale.

It’s a new team, and it will take time to gel. I would have liked to have seen Cooney start, but maybe it makes sense to start Murray alongside Sexton when so much has gone through the two of them in the past years. Change needs to be gradual, there’s no point going too extreme. Hopefully the Ulster scrumhalf gets at least 25 minutes. It’s great to see Herring and Dorris in the team with Kelleher on the bench. All in all it’s a side capable of beating the Scots.

It’ll likely be a bit of an arm wrestle for the first 15/20 minutes, and then Ireland should pull away from there. It won’t be the most glorious display of rugby, but that’s not important. If there’s the outline of a plan, and a good few fresh faces get game time, this will be a good tournament. It’s not to say the whole rugby year will be a write-off, it’s just that it might be a case of good stuff in patches until the end of the November internationals, in time to avenge that World Cup loss against Japan, hopefully along with a win against Australia and a good performance against the World Champions. In between there’s a two test series in Australia, which is a chance to give some young guns more game time.

Don’t expect the World on the weekend, just get behind the team and trust that it’s a process.

It’s a big year for the women as well. At the end of the year they play in the World Cup Qualifiers, with the top team going through and 2nd place going into a repechage. It’s vital Ireland win their 3 home games (two of which are against qualifying opponents in Italy and Scotland) to build momentum. Since a disastrous World Cup Ireland Women have been in transitional hell. It’s time to make good. This squad is a good mix of youth and players who have been around the block. 3 wins is achievable.

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Difficult tests await Irish sides

Leinster and Ulster could well meet in this seasons European Cup final, but they have a tough road to get there. Leinster battled past a more than up for it Benetton while Ulster saw off Bath. You can read an indepth review on Leinster’s win on Irish Sport TV.

Leinster top the Quarter Final rankings, meaning they have home advantage on their way to Marseille. That journey could yet be derailed by Saracens, who are officially relegated from the Premiership due to salary cap breeches. Saracens, if they can keep hold of their star players until the end, will have only European glory to play for, and will be hungry for the game. Ulster face a difficult trip to another of the favorites Toulouse. If they get through that it’s either familiar foes Exeter, or outsiders Northampton. Ulster’s semifinal will likely be at the Aviva Stadium, which means we could potentially have a double header in Dublin in the semi-finals.

If I was putting money on it, I would back a Leinster – Toulouse final. It would be fitting for the 25th anniversary of the competition if the joint record winners of the trophy battled it out for that 5th star. But I’m not putting money on it, so I’ll go with my heart and say it’s an All-Ireland showdown in Marseille between Leinster and Ulster.

The attention turns now to the men and women’s Six Nations campaigns. Ireland have 3 home games, but face difficult trips to England and France.

This week on Provincial Jazz we spoke to former Ireland and Munster star Fiona Hayes about difficult quarter finals for Leinster & Ulster, commendable pool stages for Munster & Connacht, how the debacle at Saracens could play out, Six Nations prep, and a big game for UL Bohs. You can listen on Spotify below, or search Post To Post Sport wherever you get your podcasts.

This Weeks Irish Rugby Podcast

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