So, no championship title. Certainly no Grand Slam and the diluted Triple Crown is already sitting pretty in a trophy cabinet somewhere in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Any other competition and Ireland’s remaining games would be approached with public protestations of full-on intensity and pumped-up desire, all undermined by an unmistakable ennui and desire to just put it all to bed.
Not in the Six Nations.
It may be an anomaly in that it continues to ignore the flirtatious advances of bonus points but this is a tournament that retains the interest of most sides to the end regardless of whether they are chasing a clean sweep or fleeing from the wooden spoon.
“I remember walking up to a Five Nations game,” says Eoin Reddan, “I might have been 10 at the time with my dad. I didn’t have a clue where Ireland were [in the table] that day. I didn’t know whether they were winning, going for a Grand Slam or whatever. I was just going to this match. I was going watching these guys playing.
“It was such a massive occasion in itself. For me and for everyone else it is still like that. You’re still pulling on your jersey. It’s a huge occasion and you don’t need anything else to spur you on. Everyone is giving 1,000% or whatever you would like to call it. The intensity levels are huge. This weekend will be no different.”
It’s a fair point and it says something for the mystique of a tournament that a more or less full house will be utterly engaged today by a game between two sides that hardly offer anything of novel value given they have crossed paths 126 times before.
For the players, of course, there is further incentive.
For guys like Jonathan Sexton, it is about maintaining their place at the head of the queue, for Peter O’Mahony it is a first ever start and for Eoin Reddan it is the opportunity to reclaim the starting place that was once his.
It’s a fight to which he is accustomed.
That wasn’t always the case. Back during his successful three-year stint with Wasps, it was all very different. His impact at Adams Park was immediate and allowed Matt Dawson shuffle off into retirement and by the time he returned to Ireland he had played 84 times, 68 of them from the off.
Initially, it was a similar script at Leinster but his unquestioned status as the first-choice scrum-half has been challenged since Joe Schmidt’s arrival in Dublin was accompanied by that of his fellow countryman Isaac Boss.
The stats bear that out. Reddan started all eight of the province’s European ties in his first season under Michael Cheika, seven of nine the season after and the figure stands at three from six after the group stages of the current campaign.
The theory is that Reddan is Leinster’s ‘home’ scrum-half, the more physical Boss their ‘away’ warrior, and the virtues of patience have been needed on the international stage where he has fallen into the role of first reserve twice: first behind Tomás O’Leary and, until today anyway, Conor Murray.
None of which is to say his input or effectiveness has dwindled. It hasn’t. In a way, that must make it even harder to accept the increasing frequency with which he finds himself summoned from the bench but Reddan prefers to focus on events within his control.
“At this stage of my career I realise that coaches are entitled to their opinion,” he explains. “If you get frustrated or bothered by it, it pushes you further away from getting in the team. You need to focus on what you do well and keep bringing it.
“My opinion would be, whatever happens keep doing what you are doing. Keep consistent no matter how hard it is sometimes. Give the people who are picking the team a chance to see things from your point of view. The only way you can do that is to keep your form.
Starting and sitting on the bench are merely two different jobs. “This week I have the nicer job.”
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