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Shane Horgan 'Cautiously Optimistic' About Ireland's Six Nations Chances

Shane Horgan 'Cautiously Optimistic' About Ireland's Six Nations Chances
By Jonathan Byrne

As Ireland get their Six Nations campaign underway this weekend - the nerves are starting to set in.

The challenge of Wales has posed bigger threats in previous years but nonetheless, a strong start to the tournament is paramount for Andy Farrell's side.

Ireland have the advantage of exuding plenty of confidence heading into the Six Nations opener. They have their strong showing in the Autumn Internationals to thank and some big provincial results.

With the squad announcement this week, there will be an element of risk. Connacht's Mack Hansen makes his international debut after impressing for the Westerners this season.

Then there's the absence of Robbie Henshaw and the uncertainty surrounding Joey Carberry on the bench. They're not quite overshadowing topics but worth noting.

Horgan on Ireland Hopes

One of those speaking about Ireland's chances heading into the opening weekend is former Ireland international and Leinster winger Shane Horgan.

"The anxiety is building because Ireland are playing the best rugby they have in many years," Horgan said. "If not quite favourites, they're not far off."

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The Meath man, who played 65 times for his country over a nine year period, understands that Irish rugby hopefuls have more confidence in the team than anyone else.

"There is huge optimism around Ireland at the moment. The provinces are all performing, individuals are all performing," he said.

"If Ireland can transfer the form they undoubtedly had in the autumn into this Six Nations, they look pretty formidable."

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While Andy Farrell and co won many over in Autumn, some would argue that the Six Nations is a different beast. Ireland are waiting four years since their last triumph.

Where it all changed for Horgan was the final game of last year's Six Nations. Even with Wales going on to win it outright, Ireland showed a lot for him.

There was a long lead into getting Ireland into the shape that we all thought they could get into. Things changed in the England game in the last game of the 2021 Six Nations. That day we were playing a different brand of rugby - much more expansive, much less risk-averse. We saw a reduction in the amount of box-kicking, and were attacking from deep. We saw the skillset of our forwards being exploited - so much handling - and the depth was much better. There's the core components for a really successful Six Nations.

Who's going to be crowned champions in 2022? Horgan knows it'll be a tough challenge getting the better of France in Paris next week.

"While I'm cautiously optimistic about Ireland's chances, the fact they have to go away to France to try and turn them over there," he said.

"Against a reinvigorated side and supporters - my gut feeling is that's just a bridge too far."

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See Also: Controversial Welsh Try In 2011 Still Lives On In The Memory Of D'Arcy & Byrne

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