Has there ever been as good an Irish rugby team as this one? Gerry Thornley says no, and not only that, he argues that for the sake of rugby, they need to win this Six Nations – “and ideally by beating all the others again.” And that’s his view even after removing his “green-tinged glasses”, reckoning that because Ireland “play comfortably the most ambitious brand of attacking rugby in the competition”, for them to win back to back Grand Slams would be for the good of the game. Certainly after watching Scotland v France, Owen Doyle probably appreciates watching Ireland even more. “The match itself was dire, a shocker, one of the worst Six Nations matches in memory,” he sighs. “None of us who watched will ever get back those wasted hours.”
Leinster senior coach Jacques Nienaber was most impressed by Ireland holding Italy scoreless on Saturday, John O’Sullivan hearing him purr over their defensive performance. “For any defence coach, a zero is a thing of beauty,” he said.
Johnny Watterson tracks Hugo Keenan’s journey from modest beginnings to being one of Ireland’s outstanding players over the last few years, while Nathan Johns analyses James Lowe’s trip from being dropped in 2021 for poor defensive decision making to now being a mainstay in this team. “Homework, mainly,” says Lowe when asked where the improvement has come from.
Looking back on the weekend’s hurling action, Seán Moran sees no little improvement either in the prospects of Offaly after a bunch of years in the wilderness, their youthful side full of promise. He’s not convinced, though, that Kilkenny or Cork will end their All-Ireland winning droughts this year. “You’d be hard put to find people overly confident that either team will call a halt to the barren runs this summer.”
Ian O’Riordan, meanwhile, reflects on the tragic loss of world marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum who died in a car accident in Kenya on Sunday night. “Such is the widespread shock and profound sense of loss which greeted the news, it’s clear Kiptum had already transcended the sport of marathon running,” he writes.
Ian also updates us on Mona McSharry’s progress at the World Championships in Doha, the Sligo swimmer in to this afternoon’s 100m breaststroke final, aiming to become the first Irish competitor to medal at this level in a long-course Olympic size pool.
In his Different Strokes column, David Gorman looks back at a frustrating weekend for Shane Lowry at the Phoenix Open where he tied for 60th after a bright start to the tournament, while in racing Brian O’Connor hears from the all-conquering Willie Mullins “whose grip on the game appears, if anything, to be tightening even further”.
TV Watch: The knock-out phase of the Champions League begins tonight, FC Copenhagen hosting Manchester City in the round of 16 (RTÉ 2 and TNT Sports 1, 8.0), while RB Leipzig are at home to Real Madrid (TNT Sports 2, 8.0).
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