Don’t mention the war? It would be nice not to have to but Ireland’s Six Nations opener takes place in the engorging shadow of last autumn’s ill-starred Asian campaign. Yes, we won’t be forgetting the debacle in Vietnam – sorry, I mean Japan – any time soon. The horror, the horror remains fresh in the memory.
For all the elements that make up this brave new world for Andy Farrell and the Ireland team as they head into the 2020 Guinness Six Nations, it is one of the fundamental lessons from the disappointments of 2019 that will register the strongest on matchday one.
Whether you are beating the All Blacks five tries to four or grinding it out in a tight arm-wrestle, Johnny Sexton knows the common thread to Ireland’s recent successes against the best team in the world was to never switch off.
CJ Stander has never shied away from the dirty work. Picture the Munster back row in action and it’s highly likely the image will involve a freeze frame of him with ball tucked under an armpit and ducking his head into contact for the umpteenth time.