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Ex-Ireland player's one score prediction for Six Nations opener

By Liam Heagney
Ireland's Calvin Nash and Joe McCarthy in Marseille (Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Former Ireland back-rower Alan Quinlan has tipped Andy Farrell’s side to come up with a one-score victory away to France in the Guinness Six Nations. The champions open their title defence with a massive fixture in Marseille 16 weeks after both the Irish and the French were knocked out at the quarter-final stage of the Rugby World Cup.

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These European teams had been tipped to make the final, but they instead respectively bowed out to New Zealand and South Africa and they will now look to pick up the pieces with their opening round Six Nations encounter.

It’s a Friday night match-up that Quinlan, the media pundit who last played for Ireland 16 years ago, reckoned will go the way of the Irish, but only just. He told Betway: “We will see a spring in Ireland, a new era, a couple of new players coming in.

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“I’m incredibly excited about the power and physicality of Joe McCarthy. Jack Crowley might be under less pressure because he knows he is the main man now, and Calvin Nash is in on the wing.

“He replaces the injured Mack Hansen, who is a big loss because he is such a good footballer and for his ability to come in off his wing to be a playmaker. I have a good feeling that Ireland can win, but it will be tight. One score.

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“From my experience of being involved in Six Nations campaigns for many years, the tournament excites and ignites that joy of playing rugby. It is a wonderful competition with great tradition and so much history.

“Nothing would focus Irish minds more than the task in hand on Friday night. If they are not right mentally and physically, they could struggle and suffer. But if they are on their game they can do very well and in the Six Nations itself.

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“If they use the World Cup setback in the right way they will bounce back. Listening to Farrell this week he said we have to move on, we can’t change what happened but we have to learn from it.

“There are some incredible world-class players in the Ireland team and, as we have seen with Leinster in recent weeks, they are finding their mojo and that bit of sparkle again.”

Quinlan added his vote of confidence about the selection of Crowley at out-half ahead of Ciaran Frawley and Harry Byrne. “Jack is the most natural player available that could emulate Johnny Sexton in terms of temperament, physicality and overall quality. He is very young on the international stage and he has matured a lot.”

As for the challenge Farrell has had getting Ireland going again following their World Cup demise, Quinlan suggested: “Ireland would have been incredibly frustrated to lose to New Zealand at the World Cup.

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“It was a bit of a revenge mission for the All Blacks with Joe Schmidt involved with them. Ireland seemed to be a little off that night.

“We haven’t had any public review of RWC. Internally they will have reviewed what went wrong and where they could have been better. This Irish team still has a really good culture in the group and is still driven to succeed and get better. From the head coach down, they have been pretty grounded.

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“Andy Farrell would have had a tough job picking them up again. It was a team that potentially could have won the World Cup. That’s not being cocky.

“Andy is a very optimistic person but also grounded and has often said that while sport is very important, there are more important things in life.

“Andy is the right man to pick them up again, get them positive and ignite that bit of emotion; have a glass half-full scenario rather than have regrets.”

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