The Six Nations kicks off this weekend as England face Scotland, reigning Champions, France travel to Italy and Ireland face off against Wales.

Ireland are currently ranked the number One international Rugby Union side in the world but haven't won the Six Nations since 2018. They will be favourites to win the title but in an exclusive interview for VAVEL UK former international, Alan Quinlan says his former teammates will not being getting carried away with the hype.

Nobody is getting carried away.

Alan Quinlan made over 200 appearances for Munster over a 15 year career and wore the proud Green of Ireland on 27 occasions. 

Quinlan made his Six Nations debut against Italy in 2001 as Ireland ran out 41-22 winners, but Ireland ended up finishing level on points with England, losing out on tries scored.

Looking ahead to this years much-anticipated Six Nations, Quinlan says that Ireland will learn from past mistakes. 

"Last year in the Six Nations, losing in Paris against France was disappointing. And it was a bit of a reality check for everybody really. How good they can be and how good they will be at the World Cup in France It can get much better if we could pass the quarterfinals at the World Cup. That’s the big goal for everyone involved.

"But that said it was a great year for Ireland. The results were good in November but I don’t know if the performance against Australia or Fiji were what they aspire to. It was a very good result against South Africa.

"Nobody's getting carried away here. Because we've been here before in 2018 and we had a brilliant year here winning the grand slam, a series in Australia, beat New Zealand in Dublin. We had a really disappointing 2019. So I think that will help the players that will help the squad and the fans keep their feet on the ground.

"The world number one ranking is not something they’re going to buy into. They’ve got a good squad. If they keep people healthy and fit I think they'll have a good chance of having a good year."

Ronan O’Gara was destined to be a top coach

"He is very ambitious. He has always been cut out for coaching. He was like that as a player, he was pretty vocal , very intelligent a great reader of the game who had an ability to inspire people around him. He drove the culture and environment as a player. So it was never a surprise to me that he went into coaching and has made a really successful job of it.

"I think he's done a brilliant job in France. then the Crusaders back to Racing and up to La Rochelle. It’s been a journey for him. Winning the European Cup last year means he’s guaranteed a free pass there for life!

"I'd love to see him back at Munster. He and Paul O’Connell at Thomond Park would be the dream ticket. Ronan will definitely be the coach of Ireland one day, I’m sure of that.

"We're very lucky to have that level of quality and the possibility of that happening."

Johnny Sexton is unique

"Johnny is so important to the whole set up. He would be important to any team given the level of performance, the leadership the playing ability that he shows.

"He was probably one of the players in 2019 people were ready to send out to grass and say you know he’s had his time.

"But he’s shown incredible strength and resilience and obviously quality to come back and play really well. He’s not bought into the expectation that when you hit your mid 30s that you've got to retire and finish. He has got better and better.

"Obviously the system at the IRFU the team he plays with at Leinster helps that he can get breaks and limit his game time. He's an incredibly important leader and player for Ireland.

"He’s a unique player. Any team would be happy to have him."

Who is Sexton’s successor?

"Everyone was surprised by Joey Carberry’s omission from the squad. But I think we're probably forgetting the other two players Ross Byrne and Jack Crowley. You couldn’t have four out halves. It was tough for Joey Carberry because he's a very talented player.

"I think Jack Crowley and Ross Barton, are the two form players behind Sexton and Joey has to go again and fight his way back into the squad.

"Jack has the ability to make that gap smaller between the rest and Johnny Sexton. He started against Australia in November. He’s a very, very good player whose been playing centre for Munster. Ross Byrne also burn deserves a shot. He’s a really good temperament and a superb kicking flyhalf  as well.

"The only question mark there’s ever been is his ability to take the ball to the line and get the backline moving.

"When he plays for Leinster though he doesn't seem to have a problem do not so I think it's a bit unfair the way he's been judged."

 

Andy Farrell is an inspiration

"He’s [the former England coach] done a brilliant job. And Mike Catt. They had big boots to fill when they went in and took over from Joe Schmidt. 

"There was a lot of question marks about the attack and the predictability about Ireland. He's very popular with the players. And you can see the level of belief and inspiration that he's given these guys. And we saw a lot of it last year, but he's a realist as well.

"Most of the Irish players who've experienced what happened in Japan and the 2019 Six Nations understand that things can change very, very quickly.  And they just got to try and be conscious and aware of it.

"I think their game has developed to the point that they're not going to change the way they're trying to keep the ball alive and attack and be ambitious.

"For Ireland to have England and France is obviously a benefit it doesn't guarantee you anything. What Fabien Galthie and Shaun Edwards have done for France in incredible. And Warren Gatland’s return to Wales brings excitement. I'm sure he’ll fire a few shots!"

 

Gibson Parks is one to watch

"He’s a wonderful player I think he brings real energy pace and  tempo to Ireland's game and he's just a really good footballer, a really good reader of the game as well. He’s a real sniper a running half back who wants to tap and go and keep pace and tempo. That's the way Ireland have got to play if they're going to be successful.

"Because when you come up against South Africa, England France  you're not going to overpower them up front. You have to hope to get parity and have enough ball to attack and get the multi-phase game going."

Ireland could be overpowered

"Ireland aren’t the biggest team in the world but there's a lot of intelligent footballers and good player so cohesively their biggest strength is the sum of their parts not the individual. they're very well balanced.

"Ireland have more strings to their bow. If  there's any sort of worry or vulnerability about Ireland, it's that power and size situation. If they're not on the money they can be vulnerable and they can be got at. Every team they play against is going to try to smash Ireland physically. That's the intrigue, how Ireland cope with dealing with that physicality."

England were a blunt tool but Steve Borthwick will have an immediate impact

"I played against Steve Borthwick and I know him and I think he’s going to have an immediate effect on this English side.

"They'll change the way they play. England were pretty blunt under Eddie Jones trying to overpower people. That works to a certain point. I just think they weren’t playing much rugby.

"They’ve got a lot of pace and good footballers if they change the way they play, if they're open to that. If Steve Borthwick can get them believing again and get their confidence up they can be a real handful. So I think England could be real contenders."

It won't take long to see if England are able to contest the championship with Ireland this year as England face Scotland in Saturday's late kick-off.

England and Ireland eventually face-off in the final game of the Six Nations, in what will be the crescendo to seven weeks of exciting Rugby Union.

Whatever happens, this Six Nations will be one to remember.

 

This interview is courtesy of Boylesports

If you or someone you care about require support with gambling, GamCare provide a confidential service.

VAVEL Logo
About the author