Former Ireland international, Simon Zebo, believes Ireland can recover from their poor performance against Italy but backs Wales to win the Six Nations Championship.
Joe Schmidt’s men recorded a bonus-point win over the Italians in Rome on Sunday but looked a far cry from the team that beat the world champions, New Zealand, just three months.
The half-back pairing of Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray were criticised for their sub-par performance on their 50th outing together but Murray’s former teammate, Zebo, maintains the duo are still the best in the world in their positions.
“As a pair, Conor and Johnny are probably a bit frustrated that Ireland haven’t been the clinical side we’re used to seeing, and their frustration maybe shows a touch. But I’ve no doubt those two are the best in the world in their positions and they’ll get Ireland moving back in the right direction.”
Limerick man, Murray, was one of the try scorers in the Stadio Olimpico alongside Keith Earls, Quinn Roux and Jacob Stockdale and now lie third in the Six Nations table behind Wales on 12 points and England on 10.
Paddy Power Rugby Ambassador and Columnist, Zebo, believes that it is not yet time to panic as the current team need time to gel.
“Even though the team weren’t at their best, it’s still positive. People may have panicked a little bit based on some reactions I’ve read, but a bonus point away from home is not to be sniffed at. There’s no need to press the panic button.
“I think there’s a lack of game-time in certain positions, with a few new faces in important positions. You can train all you want, but there’s no substitute for playing together in matches – those are the minutes that count, where you build relationships with people.
“That’s probably why one or two passes are not going to hand and why some small things are letting them down a bit, as opposed to the squad depth not being at a certain level. All those who’ve come in are more than capable but it’s just a matter of re-familiarising themselves with one another.”
Following Wales’ superb win over England at the weekend, Warren Gatland’s side are well in control of the championship as they look towards their clash with Scotland in two weeks time. Should they win in BT Murrayfield, it would set up a Grand Slam decider in the Aviva Stadium on March 16.
The Racing 92 winger is glad that Ireland are going into the final rounds under the radar but still backs the Welsh for victory.
“My money would probably be on Wales. They look dangerous and they’re in a good position. They have a bit of momentum behind them.
“But we’ve seen slip-ups in the past and Ireland are going along quietly under the radar.
“It’s not over yet, and I think Joe Schmidt will be telling the players exactly that.
“It’s a must-win game versus the French, who are coming with a bit of confidence and will be dangerous. In the “rest” window Ireland will be fine-tuning the machine and trying to eradicate the errors we’ve been seeing in their attack and with the handling.”
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