Following a poor last year in terms of results for Ireland, there will be huge pressure on coach Declan Kidney to manage his talented team to a successful Six Nations position, with his contract expiring shortly.
While France look particularly strong, England and Wales have both shown inconsistency, and the general consensus is that this competition will be one of the more open showpieces of recent years. For the players themselves, there will be the added interest in trying to book themselves a seat on the plane to Australia this summer with the Lions; Warren Gatland has already indicated that his final squad will mainly be reflected from the players’ Six Nations performances.
Ireland will be without Paul O’Connell, for so long been synonymous with the Irish team, for the entire Six Nations. Other costly absences are that of Stephen Ferris and Tommy Bowe, who scored a very respectable 5 tries in last year’s competition.