Ireland have “the strongest squad in the Six Nations this year”- the view of Ireland and Leinster legend Shane Byrne.
Ireland’s players are coming into the tournament in good form, with three of the four provinces having progressed to the knockout stages in Europe last week.
Only Ulster missed out, as Leinster and Munster qualified for the Champions Cup quarter finals, and Connacht for the last eight in the Challenge Cup.
Byrne feels the momentum of the good provincial form can easily translate to the Six Nations.
“The Six Nations is all about momentum”, Byrne told Jamie Moore on 98FM’s Now That’s What I Call Sport.
“It’s all about building momentum and the winning habit.
“Getting that going against France is going to be hugely important, because last year was very disappointing (losing to Scotland in the opening game).
“England are favourites- followed very closely by Ireland. And as the injury tolls do come and players drop out, we’re best placed to replace them with a talented bunch.
“To me, though, watch out for Scotland. I’m surprised that there isn’t more talk about them running into this Six Nations, because they are absolutely playing some dynamite rugby.
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One of the talking points leading into the Six Nations has been the omission of Simon Zebo from the squad, ahead of his move to Racing 92 in the summer.
Speaking at the Six Nations launch this week, Schmidt insisted the decision not to select Zebo was more to do with form than anything else.
Byrne agrees, but feels it’s more to do with the form of others in his position, rather than Zebo’s form.
“Joe would say it’s probably the form of other people that has him out”, he said.
"It’s not Zebo’s form. It’s just the outrageous form of Jordan Larmour etc- that’s the reason he’s out.
“It’s happened over the years- there’s been plenty of guys thrown in and they’ve been well able to get through it.
“Joe doesn’t usually do that. He likes to have a guy in a squad for a while to see him functioning within the squad and I presume that’s what Joe’s gonna be looking at.
“The one thing we haven’t really seen of Jordan is him tested defensively. His meteoric rise has been based around his attack.
“So I’m sure in camp, Joe will be testing everything to do with his defence- from catching the high ball to making tackles under serious pressure.
“If he gets any chance of selection he needs to impress Joe in camp. Everybody goes in there with a clean slate. If you’re not ticking all the boxes Joe wants ticked, you don’t have a chance.
“He hasn’t put a foot wrong, so if this continues, we could be seeing this guy in a green jersey for a long time to come because attacking flair like that doesn’t come around too often.
“Rob Kearney’s resurgence wasn’t based around Leinster- that was based on the form that he showed within camp.
“Keith Earls is leading the charge for a wing position, but does Larmour get a chance? Does he impress enough to push his way in at wing?
“Joe always leaves it open when you get in. That’s the great thing about his camps. The standards he drives from the players is- up until the last minute- they have an opportunity to really make an effect on the squad.
Listen to the interview in full above.
Also on the show this week, we looked back on Dublin’s mixed start to the Allianz Leagues campaign, with football boss Jim Gavin and hurling manager Pat Gilroy, heard from Sinead Goldrick, ahead of the start of the Lidl Ladies National League and we looked ahead to the Dublin Horse Racing festival with Davy Russell.
Listen to the show in full below: