One of the main positives which Irish supporters can take out of this 2019 Six Nations is that the opening game of Ireland’s World Cup campaign is still 188 days away.
There is hope that before that clash with Gregor Townsend’s Scotland in Yokohama, Ireland can rectify the glaring problems which presented themselves over the last seven weeks.
Confidence is the main issue. Whatever about the technical issues which arose in terms of the breakdown, set piece and blunted attacked, which can be fixed, the mental scarring from their performances, bar the clash with France, will need time to heal and at least that’s one thing which Ireland have, time.
The performances of Ireland’s key players is a cause for concern and the final leg of the domestic season, it is hoped, will provide the platform for form to return.
With that being said, there were some players who emerged from Ireland’s stuttering campaign with credit firmly in the bank which will provide a boost to their chances of securing a spot on the plane to Japan.
The 30-year-old Limerick man looks to have firmly cemented his place as Ireland’s second choice loosehead prop after being named on the bench for four of Ireland’s five Six Nations matches while earning a start away to Italy in Rome.
The explosive loosehead showed his power with ball in hand throughout the championship often getting Ireland on the front foot with his cameo appearances midway through the second half of games.
He was also solid at scrum-time, this particular setpiece a saving grace for Ireland throughout the campaign.
With Jack McGrath struggling for a starting berth at Leinster, Kilcoyne looks nailed on for a spot on the plane to Japan.
Early injury problems in the second-row department as Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne were sidelined opened the door for Ultan Dillane to get some long-awaited consistent game time in an Ireland jersey.
An impressive impact from the bench in Murrayfield was followed up by a start against Italy before he was introduced once again in the second half against Les Bleus in Dublin.
Dillane broke onto the scene a few years ago for his abrasive carrying and ability in the air and those qualities were to the fore once again as he carried well and contributed to two lineout steals over the last few weeks.
With Ireland’s lineout problems ever-present with other players at the helm, Dillane has certainly given Joe Schmidt food for thought when it comes to selecting Ireland’s locks for the World Cup.
The Irish back-row is one of the most competitive positions in the squad with no shortage of quality players to choose from but Jack Conan did his chances no harm after a very impressive display throughout the tournament.
The 26-year-old missed out against England but due to CJ Stander’s facial injury he sustained in the opening game, Conan was drafted into the starting team to face Scotland where he put in a solid performance.
Unfortunately, an injury in the build-up to the Italy game ruled him out but he made up for that disappointment as he was introduced in the 24th minute against France where he showed his speed, strength in the carry and tackling ability.
Conan is definitely putting pressure on CJ Stander for the starting number eight spot and his dynamic ball carrying and appetite for work is certainly putting him in the frame.
He also notched an impressive try in the win over France which continues his good record at international level, his sixth in 13 appearances.
A solid end to the season with Leinster and he could well secure his spot in a competitive 31-man World Cup squad.