Ireland need to win their next two difficult encounters to win the Grand slam. If they achieve this then they must then be serious contenders for the World Cup later this year.
If your team beat two Southern Hemisphere giants and England and France all within the last four months, you would feel your side has a chance of getting their hands on the Webb Ellis trophy.
It’s not just the results that you take into account it is the performances, the squad, the four proud provinces.
Ireland’s victory over England in the 2015 Six Nations was a big one. A true test if they were championship worthy.
It was won on numerous fronts, Mike Ross getting the better of Joe Marler, Devon Toner stealing crucial lineout ball, Johnny Sexton tackling George Ford, Robbie Henshaw winning the aerial contest against Alex Goode.
What is good about this team is we are talking about guys like Robbie Henshaw,Jared Payne, Simon Zebo, Jordi Murphy, Peter O’Mahony, Devon Toner and Jack Mcgrath instead of Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’arcy, Ronan O’gara and John Hayes. Jamie Heaslip was not there due to injury and Cian Healy only entered the fray in the 59th minute. It’s about the new generation.
Paul O’Connell said as much in his post match interview attributing their 10 match winning run to the strength of the squad and significantly to the strength of the four provinces.
Having only four teams to pick from simplifies things a bit but the true strength of the provinces is they have an identity that each player plays for even outsiders coming in soon fall in line with that culture. These players really do represent the province they play for and the province fully support them.
Where as in 2007 Ireland would pick predominantly from Munster and Leinster with the occasional Ulster selection. Ulster has become a bigger player and Connacht is on the rise.
Good depth and good foundations with real talent and an excellent coach add a bit of Irish passion and you have a side that could win the World Cup.
Only two major hurdles. Ireland have forever been the underdogs, how will they fare if they are not? The other hurdle is the All Blacks.
My brother asked me for a prediction 5 minutes before kick-off and I said England would win by 5 points. Lucky I’m not a betting man.