As I wrote last week ahead of the Calcutta Cup classic, the Six Nations never lets you down. Week after week in February and March it constantly provides drama (both on and off the pitch), age-old rivalries, all topped off with world-class sporting skills. Today’s action at the Aviva Stadium should be Exhibit A in that argument, as we are likely to witness (I hope I am not jinxing it too much…) the two best sides in the world go toe-to-toe in what may be be the Six Nations decider.
Before many of you scream at your screens and yell ‘hold your horses, there’s plenty of action to come before we talk about title deciders’, I agree with you. But hear me out…
As our very own Tom Cary wrote in the run up to today’s humdinger: “The stats do not lie. These two are miles ahead of the rest both on paper and on the pitch…In terms of official rankings, the next highest-placed northern hemisphere team is Scotland who leapfrogged England into fifth place…but you do not need the world rankings to know what you can see with your own eyes…you could make a strong case that this could be the highest quality game in the tournament’s history, let alone this year’s tournament.”
Strong stuff from Tom but going on the past 18 months to two years it’s hard to disagree with him. France and Ireland have been a joy to watch when fully on song and, as their encounters against Australia and South Africa illustrated last autumn, have also been more than capable of coming out on top in backs-to-the-wall arm wrestles.
Who comes out on top today? Your guess is as good as anyone’s but the home crowd could proved decisive. Under Andy Farrell Ireland have lost just once in Dublin, who to? Yep, you’ve guessed it, France (a 15-13 victory in 2021 when spectators were absent due to coronavirus restrictions.)
But Farrell, only too aware that this contest is likely to be decided by fine margins what’s the Irish crowd to be his side’s 16th man.
“Yeah, 100 per cent,” he said, speaking of the need to bring the crowd into the game. “It’s a package, isn’t it?
“It’s everyone who comes to the game buying into it and we’re a part of that package. Obviously everyone wants to start well and start strongly, and it’s something that we’ve done pretty well.
“But things ain’t going to go all according to plan when two good teams are going at it.
“So therefore it isn’t just getting them behind us and getting excited through the good times, it’s also making sure that the fans feel where we’re at in the game as well and try and drag us through because it’s certainly what our players felt last year in France.”
Stay here for all the pre-match build up and to find out if the crowd can inspire Ireland to another great win.