Hard to believe four years have elapsed since Ireland’s painful World Cup quarter final exit at the hands of Argentina in Cardiff. As Joe Schmidt enters the twilight of his spectacularly successful reign at the helm of Irish rugby, the next six weeks will shape the epilogue of a brilliant period for Irish rugby.
Losing may not be a habit for this Ireland team, and certainly not as far as James Ryan is concerned, but pinpointing the reasons for defeat and moving quickly to improve is as much a key to success as knowing how to string together victory after victory.
Michael Cheika still adores Johnny Sexton and the Leinster veterans he coached to a Heineken Cup victory in 2009 but the love-in with a player he calls “the maestro” will have to go on hold tomorrow as Australia attempt to close out their Test series with Ireland.
When you put in the type of performance David Pocock delivered against Ireland last weekend, it becomes a little difficult to comprehend the Australian back-rower believed taking his one-year sabbatical from the game was something of a career risk.