Tough away days ahead for Ireland as favourites France eye the Grand Slam

Rian Noctor

After an impressive Autumn internationals series, highlighted by a 29-20 win over the All Blacks along with wins against Japan and Argentina, Ireland have their eyes set on the 2022 Six Nations, which begins with a home tie against Wales on Saturday. Andy Farrell’s men will be looking to improve on their 3rd place finish in 2021, but away trips to England and a French team featuring the likes of Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack, it will be a tough task for the boys in Green to take home the trophy.

Turbulent Travel

The championship is looking like a three-horse race in 2022, with Ireland, England and France expecting to lift the trophy come mid-March. All three will also have hopes of completing the Grand Slam. Ireland will arguably have the toughest task of the three teams, with trips to the Stade De France and Twickenham on their schedule. Even though it’s a gruelling task on paper, Ireland will have positive memories of both stadiums, with Johnny Sexton’s buzzer beating drop goal in 2018 rescuing a win from the jaws of defeat in the opening game. They would go on to complete the Grand Slam with a 24-15 win over England at Twickenham.

The Boys in Green are led by talisman Sexton and feature the likes of Caelan Doris, who has starred for Leinster this season along with 2 uncapped players, Michael Lowry and Mick Hansen. The 37 man squad features a great blend of youth and experience with Andy Farrell believing that the November Series has set them up for success in this year’s tournament.

“We have a strong squad with competition for places across the board, there is a nice blend of experienced internationals and guys who have had their first taste of this level in the past 12 months.  The games in November gave us a good foundation to build on and areas where we know we will have to improve”, Farrell said.

Fantastic French

It’s been 12 years since the great France team of 2010 lifted the Grand Slam. Featuring the like of captain Thierry Dusatoir, William Servat and Imanol Harinordoquy amongst others, France romped to a perfect campaign, including a 33-10 thrashing of Ireland on home soil.

Since then it has been stop start for Les Blues but now as the 2022 campaign approaches, Fabian Galthié’s men are unanimous favourites for the title. Led by captain and World Player of the Year Antoine Dupont alongside out-half Romain Ntamack, and coming off the back of a 2021 which featured a first win over Australia on Australian soil in 31 years and a stunning 40-25 win over the All Blacks, France look like a scary prospect and good money for their favourites tag, and with a home World Cup just a year away, they will be out to make a statement.

France have won both games against Ireland under Galthié, including a narrow 15-13 win in Dublin last year. The Boys in Green will not look ahead but they will believe that a win over France in Week 2 will go a long way in determining their success in this championship.

Rian Noctor

Image Credit: Planet Rugby