The Rugby Club: They may have lost to England but Ireland are still favourites for the Six Nations title
With the Six Nations wide open the Rugby Club panel discuss who they believe will win the competition.
Last Updated: 05/03/14 5:25pm
Ireland suffered their first defeat in the tournament when they lost to England while Wales bounced back from their disappointment in Dublin to soundly beat a poor France in Cardiff.
In the penultimate round England will be looking for the Triple Crown when they host Wales at Twickenham, who are looking for an unprecedented third title in a row.
Scotland got their first win of the tournament over Italy and will head to France hoping that Les Bleus are still in disarray. Ireland will be looking for a big score against Italy in Dublin as this year it could all well come down to points difference!
Ieuan Evans is delighted that Wales are back in the mix but the former Wales winger still believes that Ireland will clinch the title.
"Ireland have a pretty healthy points difference over everyone else," said Evans on The Rugby Club, " and still have Italy to come and also a French side who look rudderless - they have no idea where the ball is going or what to do with it.
"Ireland will be hurting after that loss against England but I still think they have enough quality to take advantage of this points difference that they have.
"Ireland kicked an awful lot of ball against England, which was puzzling. It took them until the second half to look for the inside pass. England were relatively comfortable with them going wide, wide, wide all the time. Ireland really missed Sean O'Brien who takes the slow ball so well. But they still have enough to beat Italy and to go and win in France."
As a neutral, Wallaby legend Michael Lynagh has thoroughly enjoyed the tournament so far and is looking forward to where it takes us next.
"It's been fascinating really, the whole unpredictability has been great," added Lynagh on The Rugby Club.
"Ireland have been pretty strong and consistent in their performances - as have England, who were unfortunate to lose that game against France.
"France have been all over the place; they were woeful against Wales, but that is just like them. They played terribly in World Cup a couple of years ago but got to the final and should have won the thing! I can't see that happening here but I could see that it could because France are like that.
"I like what England are doing and I think they have progressed a lot from last year. The team seems a lot settled, but I am going to throw this out there. At the end of the day Stuart Lancaster was saying how proud he was and that is great, but let's just look at it for what it was - a three-point win over Ireland at home. England should be expecting that every time they go out at home.
"They should not have to say to the crowd 'get behind us'; they are in England, it should happen automatically. The team are doing really well to build that up and they are heading in the right direction.
"In that England game towards the end you had two senior players in Brian O'Driscoll and Jonathan Sexton who, while overall they played pretty well, in that crucial time let the team down a little bit. They could have controlled things, calmed things down and slowed it all down. It was too frenetic at the end."
Greenwood agrees with Lynagh but says that the mistakes were forced by England's defence.
"I have never seen Sexton kick the ball away so much so badly and Brian threw some bad passes," he said. "That comes back to Andy Farrell's defence system - often led by his son Owen, which just swamps you. They just keep on coming and they are so hungry to just make the hit and they can force the error.
"However I think Ireland are a really good side and I have for awhile. Last year they played three games in a swimming pool which didn't help their game under their previous coach.
"Now they have got Joe Schmidt who understands the tactical nuances of the different sides they play against. Schmidt is aware that he is probably short of a couple of players. He would love a couple of dynamic finishers. Dave Carney and Andrew Trimble are sound, solid players, but somewhere in your back three you just need to add something.
"I have always believed that they would win the Championship on points difference. I think they will pan Italy and go to Paris and turn them over too. England was a good win but Ireland are still my favourites."