The 2021 Six Nations was unique in that it was the first, and hopefully only, Six Nations tournament to be played, in totality, during a global pandemic. The teams trained in their individual isolation bubbles and there were no crowds in attendance.
Ireland won 3 of their five games, picking up 3 bonus points over the tournament for a 60% match points pick up.
|Round 1||Wales||21 – 16||Ireland||Cardiff|
|Round 2||Ireland||13 – 15||France||Dublin|
|Round 3||Italy||10 – 48||Ireland||Rome|
|Round 4||Scotland||24 – 27||Ireland||Edinburgh|
|Round 5||Ireland||32 – 18||England||Dublin|
At the time of writing Ireland are placed second in the Six Nations Table (below) but it is possible that they could finish anywhere between 2nd and 4th depending on the result in the rearranged fixture between France and Scotland which is to be played on Friday 26th March at 20:00.
Ireland coach Andy Farrell called on 32 players throughout the tournament. The overall makeup saw 19 Leinster, 7 Munster, 4 Ulster and 2 Connacht players named in the squads who clocked up 5,921 minutes played, following 2 red cards and 1 yellow card, over the tournament.
The provincial breakdown by minutes played is shown below. (Connacht clock in at 1.5%, it’s slice of the pie too small to show the number!)
Only one player played every minute of all five games with Hugo Keenan claiming that honour in his first Six Nations series. The departing CJ Stander put in a full shift in his final appearances only missing out on 17 minutes on the pitch over the 5 games.
Ulster’s most used player was Iain Henderson who averaged over 65 minutes per game.
Ireland scored a total of 136 points, the points coming from 12 tries, 11 conversions (92% conversion rate) and 18 penalties.
Unsurprisingly, Johnny Sexton tops the table with 65 points scored from 10 conversions and 15 penalties. Billy Burns was the only Ulster scorer in the tournament with 6 points from 2 penalties.
Keith Earls, Tadhg Beirne and Will Connors were the leading try scorers with 2 each.
James Lowe made the most ground with the ball in hand and made the most distance per carry. You can make your own call as to how effective those carries were, but, compared to the likes of Earls, it would be hard to argue that the Munster veteran didn’t have more successful outcomes at the end of his carries.
Henderson was Ulsters main carrier and was the third highest placed forward, who made their carries in the heavy traffic. Stander was the leading carrier, amongst the forwards, not only taking on the most carries but also generating the most distance per carry.
I found the number of offloads completed by Ireland particularly disappointing. They completed a total of 19 which works out at less than 4 per game. For comparison, France have completed 39 offloads in their 4 matches to date.
Lowe also tops the meters kicked as well as the meters carried though over half of that total came against France where he was used for clearance kicks in preference to Ulster player Burns.
Ulster’s Henderson was the main go to jumper in the lineouts, closely followed by Beirne. James Ryan would have had a similar total if he had been available for more minutes. Despite only being available for just over two games Ryan was the most disruptive on opponents put ins with 3 steals.
The redoubtable Stander clocked up the most tackles over the series though Connors and Ryan have a higher success rate. As you would expect, 8 of the top 10 tacklers are forwards with only Robbie Henshaw and Sexton hitting those heights for the backs.
Henderson, is once again the shining light for Ulster and Rob Herring also makes the top 10.
Beirne was lauded throughout the tournament for his breakdown work and it shows in the number of turnovers won with the Munster player well ahead of second placed Henderson.
However, Ireland’s average of just under seven turnovers per game is some distance behind those they conceded.
Ireland conceded 60% more turnovers than they won, which is surprising, and Lowe was the main culprit which somewhat blighted his overall contribution.
|Josh van der Flier||189||2|
An average of around 10 penalties conceded per match would be power for the course these days and Ireland come in at 9.2.
Some of the gloss is taken off Beirne’s overall display with his total of 7.
I’m firmly on the side of World Rugby’s efforts to reintroduce skill at the contact area, in preference to physical assault, for the safety of players. It’ll be difficult for players who have been coached throughout their careers to push the boundaries of physical domination but the game should be better and open to more players when we come out the other side.
Given their limited numbers in big physical specimens Ireland should be moving the emphasis away from contact and making the ball do a bit more work.
All the Ireland player stats provided by aws