Pitchside with Ferris: Six Nations, Ireland in 2018 and Andy Farrell

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2018 was a golden year for Ireland but where did it go wrong?

The Six Nations is back but before we go forward, let’s look back at where it went sour for Ireland. I was working during their away game against England in the World Cup warm up – when this turning point occurred!

Ireland had a good team out that day with a lot of experience throughout, however, they got beaten by over 50 points and suddenly looked like a team who were very vulnerable and low in confidence. From this game the negativity started to snowball with the press and media getting on top of them. It was a game Ireland probably wish they had never played.

We all thought Joe Schmidt would have something up his sleeve when he went to Japan for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but sadly all the Irish fans didn’t see anything new. Same old Joe. I expected change and something different that no one had seen before but that didn’t happen. It was the same old pragmatic Ireland which was very frustrating to watch at times.

The reason why I don’t think the betting is strong for Ireland, is off the back of the quarter-final exit at last year’s Rugby World Cup and Rory Best stepping down as Captain.

Will it take some time for Andy Farrell to get his vision together?

It is going to take time for Andy Farrell to get his vision together for Ireland. However, in International Rugby you don’t have time to break yourself in gently. International Rugby is a results driven business and Farrell has big boots to fill from Joe Schmit. He must bring something different to the table to help this Ireland team evolve.

I hope to see an offloading game with that ruthless streak we associated with Ireland some years back when they beat the All Blacks not once, but twice! They also won a Grand Slam and beat England on their own turf.

I feel Andy is working with the players that are in form. Rob Herring picked for Hooker, Ronan Kelleher coming back from injury, Caelan Doris at number 8. He even moved CJ Stander to blind side! I think he has made some good changes and a great first team selection.

Looking at the fixtures, we have Scotland up first and then Wales also at home. Ireland are 4/1 to win the tournament which is are good odds considering they could well get off to a fast start.

People seem to be skeptical of what Johnny Sexton’s captaining ability will be like as he is hot headed and shows a lot of emotion on the pitch. Now being Captain, he will have to show his experience and settle his game down.

We all know his playing ability and how he can win a game. Having won World Rugby player of the year in 2018, I think he is the right guy to take Ireland forward definitely for the short term. A man who has won most things in the blue of Leinster, green of Ireland and Red of the Lions. He certainly has the experience to knows what it takes.

I would not be ruling out Ireland in this tournament. Is there a team that is going to win Grand Slam this year? Probably not, but Ireland are certainly in with a chance of winning the Championship.

Wales v Italy, Saturday, 14:15

Personally, I feel Wales had overachieved in the Rugby World Cup. They had a lot of injuries throughout the tournament and for them to get into a third/fourth place play off was great. Having won the Grand Slam last year and Alun Wyn Jones churning out the performances they are a team with a lot of belief and who always deliver at the right times.

They are heading into this competition at 11/2 but unfortunately, I cannot see them winning it two years in a row.

We also have Italy who have a very difficult start to the Six Nations being away from home for their first two games. They bring great passion and emotion and give it their all for the first 40-50 minutes of the match and then they seem to run out of steam.

They just don’t have the player pool to pick from and resources are limited. I have felt sorry for them at times over the last number of years.

I can see this game ending in a convincing Wales victory.

Prediction: 35-15 Wales win

Ireland v Scotland, Saturday, 16:45

Scotland have lost some key men heading into this Six Nations. Finn Russell has gone back to France; Tommy Seymour has retired from International Rugby along with the experienced Greg Laidlaw, and to me the team always seem to be in the transition period.

Stuart Hogg who is a fantastic player, is captaining the team from full back? I personally think you need someone who is closer to the pack to communicate more with the referee. We all know this is a very important part of managing games and maybe Scotland have got this selection wrong.

But I hope I am made to eat my words because Hoggy is a super bloke and awesome player.

I think they will give Ireland a big test this weekend because it is their first game of the Six Nations. However, I can’t see them winning it especially as they are away from home.

How do you see Ireland performing in this game?

I want to see Ireland be ruthless and dominant in the contact area. Win the collisions and give Sexton the ball on a plate to work his magic. Please play with freedom lads, Joe won’t be there for the Monday morning review meeting!!!

Prediction: 20-15 Ireland win

Bet: Scotland +14 on the HC

England v France, Sunday, 15:00.

I believe that England deserve to be odds on favourites at 8/11 and this is down to how they have been performing especially over the last 12 months. Their World Cup Final performance will still be fresh in their minds however, they should be focusing more on their performances leading up to the final as they were superb.

They have a tough ask facing France in this game, it is the tightest match with only a few points in the Handicap. France are 11/2 to win the tournament which the value seekers are more prone to heading to as an 8/11 shot on England is not everyone’s cup of tea.

I can imagine France winning this game, picking up where they left off at the Rugby World Cup. They should have beaten Wales and marched on in the tournament if it hadn’t of been for that silly red card. What a moment of madness!

I can see France nicking this game but don’t hold your breath, as England could easily bounce back to win the tournament, they are odds on and there is a reason for it.

Prediction: 23-20 France win

Many thanks,

Stephen Ferris

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Stephen Ferris

After a fine backrow career with Ulster and Ireland, Stephen Ferris will be sharing his thoughts on all the big rugby talking points here on Ladbrokes News, including the World Cup and Six Nations.