1. Can Ireland pick up from where they left off against Argentina, or is it back to a hard slog?
It’s a very different game in a different competition.
But every opportunity is there for them to perform as they did again Argentina.
Wales are after having a slow year so far will be much more formidable opposition than Argentina.
2. What do you see as the biggest weakness in this Irish team or game-plan?
I think the main issue for the last while has been inconsistency. And I think that couples with issues around the attacking game-plan that I’ve been highlighting for a while and Brian brought to light in the summer. But it seems to be rectified to a good degree.
We’ll see if Argentina was an exception, or if Argentina was a departure.The one thing that probably concerned me more than anything were the injuries Ireland have had. They haven’t been able to get a full side out for a long time now.
For me, that’s one of the biggest reasons for optimism at the moment. I think we’ve had almost a full side to pick from, bar Paul O’Connell, Richardt Strauss, Tommy Bowe and Stephen Ferris.
We’ve got Sean O’Brien back, Rob Kearney and Brian O’Driscoll back. They’re three crucial players for us.
3. The switch in captaincy — the right decision, the right man?
I don’t know what effect it’s had on the squad yet. We won’t know until after the first game. And even then, I don’t think that will be the basis for judging a change of captaincy at all.
Jamie’s only just got in to it, so it will take time to settle into that role. So I wouldn’t be too quick to judge one way or the other.
I think Jamie’s well capable of doing a good job, but I think that will be over a period of time so I wouldn’t be judging him straight away.
4. Big selection calls on the wing. Who would you have picked?
I think it’s more than ‘three into two won’t go’. Trimble got dropped early in the week, but you would have thought that Fergus McFadden had certainly put his hand up, as did Luke Fitzgerald and Keith Earls.
So there were a couple of guys going for that same spot and I think they’re all valid candidates. Luke probably didn’t get quite enough game time, McFadden had a good season and Earls has been playing a lot of rugby in the centre, but I’m surprised he wasn’t picked.
Craig Gilroy played so well in the autumn and captured everyone’s imagination and he hasn’t done a whole lot wrong since, so it was hard not to pick him.
5. Outside of Ireland, one player everyone should watch out for.
I don’t think it’s any big surprise, but I think Wesley Fofana. I think he’s just incredible in the centre for Clermont. This year, he’s even bigger and more powerful, he’s difficult to stop and really aggressive. Good skill, good step and he’ll be behind a good French pack.
6. In general, what do you hope to see in this year’s tournament?
It’s always so varied. Unfortunately for Ireland we’ve Wales the first week and that’s almost a season-defining game and it’s unfortunate to have that in the opener.
Everything’s on the line there. If not the Championship, then certainly the Triple Crown or Grand Slam is on the line in that first game. That’s a lot of pressure.
That first weekend is hard to look beyond from an Ireland perspective, but even after that the Six Nations always throws up a couple of surprises. It will be interesting to see how Scotland get on this year with the change of management (albeit on a temporary basis).
And then there’s a narrative running right through which is bigger than the Six Nations itself; that’s trying to get a place on the Lions squad and that always makes quite a lot of individual match-ups have and extra bit of spice… not that they really need it.
7. If we gave you a tenner, who would you bet on to win the tournament?
I think France are looking very strong.
But, you know, I actually think that Ireland have a reasonable chance this year. I think if they get over Wales everything is opened up and you could see a really strong Ireland team for the rest of the championship… but I think France still look the strongest.
Shane Horgan will be part of the team as RTÉ Sport broadcast comprehensive coverage of this year’s RBS 6 Nations with all 15 RBS 6 Nations matches available in HD.