Northern hemisphere rugby fans will be excited about the return of the Six Nations after nearly an eight month delay. It comes even as Ireland go back into lockdown, but professional sport has still been giving the green the light to go ahead, meaning the wait will finally be over this Saturday.
The Irish currently sit down in fourth in the table on nine points from their three matches, but given their game in hand comes against a winless and pointless Italian outfit this Saturday, it looks to be a three-horse race for the title between England, France and themselves.
Ireland -13.5 First Half Point Handicap
Indeed, the Azzurri’s last win in this tournament came back in 2015 as they’ve lost 25 straight matches since that win against what was a lackluster Scottish outfit.
In fact, against the strongest teams over that period – England, Wales & Ireland, they’ve lost all seven of their trips by at least 21 points, five of which were by a minimum of 37 points, as they were trailing at half time by more than 20 points in each of those five thrashings too.
Ireland -29 Point Handicap
If we are to look at how the men in green have gone against the weaker sides at Lansdowne Road, it certainly makes it even clear how this one will probably turn out.
Indeed, they’ve trounced all over the visiting sides, winning by at least 30 points in nine of their 11 matches when excluding all Tier One nations other than Italy since the start of 2011, with one of those anomalies coming when Ireland put an experimental side out to face their visitors prior to the most recent World Cup, still scoring five tries and winning 29-10, while the other came when fielding a young rotated side against Fiji back in November 2017.
One thing that is for sure is that Andy Farrell will want to put out a strong side on their return to rugby with the bonus point a necessity in their hopes of lifting the trophy.
The likes of Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson and Jordan Larmour may be out injured or suspended, but Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne and Hugo Keenan are hardly poor replacements.
Furthermore, the most important factor for the hosts is that both Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton take up their usual halfback spots, and when they’re starting you can almost guarantee Ireland will be at near their full potential, especially with CJ Stander at the back of the scrum too.