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Frank Quinn looks at forthcoming Six Nations and RWC

Frank Quinn

By Frank Quinn
TWO rounds over and a very welcome hello to Ireland and Scotland at the top of the table. On 10 points each, there is a lull in the proceedings and we’ve had a week’s down time for the internationals while the URC picked up a few spare fixtures and the Heineken Cup is parked until April the first.
We pick up at the week-end in Rome, for a really great travel experience. It’s an historic place, a great city but the Azzurri lack a real professional side. They are coached by Kieran Crowley who, if you have seen him on the TV in his coaches box, is a laid back character. His message to the players seems to be “I have prepared you well for this game so go to it!”
Played two and lost two is not the greatest start for the Italians so can we expect a five pointer win to keep us on top of the table. There is a week’s break to Sunday 12th March to play Scotland at Murrayfield and then a six day turnaround to be managed to play England on the 18th March at 5 pm.
You have to think positive again and say it is a “lucky” break with time off and playing the weakest team on the return. I don’t like to wish teams luck. I prefer to say “Play Well”. The coach has to use the mini break to his best advantage. Niggly injuries get the opportunity to heal and it is a refresher break. It is turning out that we have to play joint table toppers Scotland after Italy and then a super Saturday looms on the 18th March at the Aviva against England, who are currently four points adrift of us .
It will be vital that our head coach has the team he wants on the park for the final three games whichever way he manages the permutations of injuries and selection. The injured players have the extra recovery time to get back into the selection and the coaches have 41 of the best players in the country in the squad. They are sure to release a few players to get games at their clubs in the two breaks to be match fit when required. Really, from what we have seen, and the number of excellent players in the team squads so far, we should not have to worry about who is selected. The only worry we have is to win the game with maximum points and to avoid cliff-hangers on Bonus Points at the Super Saturday finale.
This is now the real test for the coaching staff and more so the players who will be doing their normal training routine this week and next. In my opinion the coaches have the most difficult job to keep the balance in the side, give all the players the opportunity to earn selection, and pick the right players for each game. I really did not want to mention the RWC, but this is turning out to be a like a pool stage in a RWC for the coach. He will be considering how to get to the quarter finals, with your best team intact and on the park for the quarter final game.
The difference in the 6N is that there are 31 players in the squad. At the RWC and now there are 41 players in the 6N camp in 2023. From what we have seen so far it is one o f the best squads ever assembled by Ireland. It has quality, flexibility, class and a togetherness of spirit that will be very hard to match.
The competition for places and the situation, with such a large group and the individual intensity in a 6N camp who are all there is to impress the coaching staff and to earn a place in every starting squad, is not to be under-estimated.
Many coaches like to see the intensity at its highest level in camps and make selections on what they see, rather than history or past performances. It’s up to the players.

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