STADIUM: Aviva Stadium

HEAD COACH: Andy Farrell (ENG)

CAPTAIN: Johnny Sexton


Hookers Rob Herring and Ronan Kelleher have been in outstanding form this season for Ulster and Leinster respectively, and the battle for a starting place in the front row could be interesting to keep an eye on. Tighthead prop Andrew Porter also remains a try-scoring threat, so the Leinster player will be critical to Ireland’s title hopes this year. In the back row, Gavin Coombes loves making carries and gaining ground, so the Munster back rower could be important in scrums and at the breakdown, whilst Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier has been one of the Dublin side’s most dangerous players this season. Further back, Jack Carty will be one able deputy for Johnny Sexton (alongside Munster’s Joey Carbery), having played a big role in Connacht’s outstanding displays during the European Rugby Champions Cup pool stages, whilst Ulster full-back Michael Lowry is the standout newcomer, offering plenty in attack and defence.

2021 PLACING: 3rd


Ireland are a team that plenty are fancying this season, and this is understandable given the form of all four Irish provinces in the pool stages of this season’s Champions Cup. All four have been excellent going forwards, so scoring tries shouldn’t be a problem for Ireland if they can find a way to marry all of that individual talent together. From the front row to the full-back, their quality will make it difficult to play against them, and a first title since 2018 is not beyond them.