Six Nations: Can Ireland still claim the title?


Ireland’s Grand Slam dreams were dashed as quickly as they began after Saturday’s 30-24 defeat to France in Paris.

The clash in Paris was a battle between the two favourites to claim the title and the fans were given a treat as the two went head to head.

France led almost instantly with a try from Antoine Dupont, the scrum-half going over after just 67 seconds, the earliest Ireland have ever conceded a try in the championship.

Melvyn Jaminet was magnificent as France became the first team to defeat the Irish since they did likewise in Dublin 12 months prior.

A try from newly-capped international Mack Hansen and second half efforts from Josh Van Der Flier and Jamison Gibson-Park were not enough to keep Andy Farrell’s team’s winning run going but they did gather what could prove to be a crucial losing bonus point.

Joey Carbery put in a valiant effort deputising for the injured Johnny Sexton but Farrell will be hoping to have him captain back for the rest of the run-in. Sexton cannot go on forever and Carbery has shown he is capable of stepping up but Sexton’s experience could prove vital as Ireland chase the title.

Which brings on the main point, all is not lost.

The Grand Slam itself is done for another year, with only France now capable of taking home the ultimate honours. But the Triple Crown remains in sight and will be at least some consolation should the French drive on from here.

As for the championship itself, things are of course now out of Ireland’s own hands but that is not to say a title winning season is not on the cards.

Next up for Farrell’s men is a home match with Italy in a couple of weeks’ time. Anything less than a bonus-point win would be a big surprise and it is the perfect fixture to forget the defeat in Paris and restore some confidence to the squad.

Wales and England have also brought themselves back into the fold and will face off at Twickenham next up. It is hard to envisage England losing to another near neighbour so soon after the Scotland defeat. A win would all but end the hopes of the Welsh.

France will face a tricky trip to Edinburgh to take on Scotland who may be slightly downbeat after their defeat in Cardiff but will be looking to give their own supporters something to cheer once more. A narrow French win would most likely ensure a three-horse race.

France would then face Wales in Cardiff under the lights on a Friday night. Backed by a vociferous home crowd, this is perhaps the most likely place we could see the Grand Slam hopes go up in dust. This would open the door for Ireland to go and claim a win in the backyard of their arch-rivals at Twickenham to leave the title once again in their own hands.

In this scenario, it would come down to a final day showdown with Scotland in Dublin. With a new brand of attacking rugby on display and backed by a full house of 50,000 supporters, a bonus-point win would be well within reach to claim the first title of Farrell’s reign.

This may be a slightly idealistic look at the next few weeks but what it shows is that Ireland and Farrell should not lose heart. There are more twists and turns to come in this championship. If there is one thing we should learn from the past is that we should rule nothing out.

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