So where do we stand in the Six Nations? What is the state of the parties when the competition resumes on the 24th of October?
Despite the pessimism after another bitterly disappointing World Cup campaign, there is light at the end of the tunnel for new Irish head coach Andy Farrell.
Ireland had stumbled through its first three Six Nations fixtures. In the opening fixture, they were fortunate not to start the campaign on the back foot. Stuart Hogg was the Scottish pantomime villain. He failed to touch down for what appeared to be a certain try, to gift the home side a fortunate victory.
Their best display came against a jaded looking Welsh outfit. Then they were lucky to escape Twickenham without suffering a heavier defeat. So far so bad. The cards may, however, have fallen nicely for the 2018 Grand Slam winners. Next up is a home banker bonus point against Italy. It could also send their scoring points difference soaring.
Paris has never been a happy hunting ground for traveling Irish sides. Still, memories of 2018’s epic win are still fresh in the mind. The improving French side is still hugely inexperienced when it comes to winning at this level. There is a tendency for French sides to blow hot and cold. That means they are no certainty to take advantage of home comforts in the Stade de France.
While England are still in the mix, if Ireland wins their last two fixtures they will be crowned champions. Also, a French loss to Ireland will end their hopes. Wales and Scotland look set for lower table mediocrity. Italy is guaranteed its perennial wooden spoon.
OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS FOR IRELAND
The reality is Ireland is still in pole position to land the latest version of rugby’s Home Nations competition for the 15th time. Ireland has not become a bad side overnight.
Any side containing the likes of Johnny Sexton, James Ryan, Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony, Gary Ringrose, and Tadgh Furlong et al, simply has to be respected. Consistency and execution are key for Ireland. Also a fit and firing Sexton and Conor Murray axis. are key to their hopes of getting the Andy Farrell era off to a winning start.
Beating the French would be just the tonic for the World Cup blues. There is a huge chance for redemption in Paris. It is an opportunity the visitors may well grasp with both hands.