Ireland kick-off this year’s Six Nations as the number one ranked test side in the world after a sublime 2022 which saw them win a Triple Crown, beat the All Blacks in New Zealand for the first time and a clean sweep of the Autumn Nations.
The Irish have a reputation for suffering a loss of form in World Cup years, however that does not apply to the Six Nations, their win rate in recent years is 72% compared to 64% in non-World Cup years.
Captain Johnny Sexton’s impact both on and off the field will be key to any potential Irish success at this tournament, however his recent injury record is a cause for concern, Ireland’s attack runs through him and his experience is invaluable.
World Rugby’s Player of the Year for 2022, Josh van der Flier, is the engine for a brilliant group of players.
Ireland’s organised play-style relies on the sum of its parts rather than individual brilliance but he stands out as the best of a fabulous bunch.
Ireland are not without their weaknesses and they were on show in last year’s loss to France, uncharacteristic mistakes and France’s forwards physical dominance gave Les Blues the victory in that game.
Home advantage will play a massive factor this year and should give Ireland the edge in close games.
Ireland kick off their Six Nations campaign on February 4 against Wales at the Principality Stadium.
The Irish are expected to be victorious in Cardiff before facing France at home in the Aviva Stadium before a trip to Rome could be the start of an Irish victory parade.
Italy claimed their first Six Nations win in seven years last season when they defeated Wales 22-21, ending a 36-game losing streak in the tournament, but the Irish will still be going into the meeting with confidence.
Scotland at Murrayfield will be a test before meeting England in Dublin in the final round on March 18.
The tournament is expected to be a tight affair, especially between Ireland and reigning-champions France.
The latter claimed their first title in 12 years in 2022 however they sit second in the world rankings, just below the Irish who are currently favourites to win outright.
The latest big result for them came in November when they defeated New Zealand 29-20 in Dublin, which was dubbed the greatest victory of the Andy Farrell era.
France then beat the All Blacks a week later, with the latest meeting between Ireland and the French coming in the 2022 Six Nations which resulted in a 30-24 victory for Les Bleus.
Three home fixtures for the Irish will work to their advantage, with flanker Caelan Doris expected to be in flying form after an injury-hit 2021.