Ireland come into the 2018 6 Nations ranked 4th in the world and in a good run of form. Having beaten South Africa, Australia, England and New Zealand over the past two years, they will rightly feel confident in their ability to beat anyone on their day. However, with losses to Scotland and Wales in last year’s 6 Nations they are definitely prone to a loss when slightly off the pace. With England confidently being pegged as 6 Nations’ winners by many, we ask: are Ireland likely to slip under the radar and cause an upset?
They certainly have a good chance. Ireland have three games at home, Italy, Wales and Scotland, and two away, France and England.
Ireland’s recent record at home reads only two defeats in their last 21 games (Wales in a World Cup warm up in 2015, and New Zealand in 2016) and so, based on this, they should have no trouble with their home games. Indeed our algorithm gives Ireland a greater than 79% chance of winning each of those games.
Ireland’s away games, France and England, are clearly the more difficult games for the men in green.
The model predicts that they should beat the French comfortably (14 – 28), although their record in France leaves much to be desired. With just two wins since 2000, the tide of history would appear to be against the Irish, however in recent times the results have been improving. The opening fixture is always important in the 6 Nations and this is especially true for Ireland this year. Should they win against France, they should have three (relatively) comfortable games at home to prepare for what could very well be the Grand Slam decider against England in Twickenham.
Sadly for the Irish, their run is predicted to end there. England are extremely strong at home (and indeed anywhere) currently, with our model predicting that only New Zealand would win away in Twickenham at the moment (with a predicted score of 27 – 33 for those who are interested, England having a 37% chance of victory)
We feel the score is unlikely to be as high scoring as the 35 – 24 predicted above, due in part to the fact that the climax matches of the 6 Nations are generally well contested, tight affairs, but also due to the fact that the 17th March is St Patrick’s Day and the Irish are likely to put in a performance to honour their national day.
One way or another, should the Irish get off to a strong start against France in their opening weekend, we feel confident in predicting that they will be four from four come the final weekend and with a Grand Slam potentially on the line, it will be all to play for on St Patrick’s day in March. An enthralling prospect.