Former Ireland flank Alan Quinlan thinks that the current form of Munster and Leinster is a positive sign for the national side.
Munster came from 19 points down against Clermont-Auvergne away to win their Heineken Champions Cup encounter by 39-31, continuing a nine-game unbeaten run across all competitions this season.
Similarly, Leinster continued their form in Europe in spite of an uninspired performance against Northampton Saints, as they won 35-19 in the RDS in Dublin.
While Connacht and Ulster both registered defeats over the weekend, they too showed glimpses of improved form, which will please the national selectors at the end of 2020.
Speaking on Monday’s OTB AM, Quinlan suggested that this could be the start of a rise in Irish form moving forward.
“Obviously in sport you can have a dip in form,” Quinlan said. “Things can go against you and losing can become a habit as well as winning.
“I think Ireland have obviously had their struggles for 15-16 months, and a lot of the players themselves [have been in search of form].”
Using Munster’s Peter O’Mahony as an example, Quinlan pointed out how certain players have rediscovered form in recent weeks that they haven’t had since Ireland’s peak of 2018.
“If you look at someone like Peter O’Mahony, his performances in the last few weeks and for Ireland have been brilliant in November,” Quinlan said.
“You go back to New Zealand, the game won in Dublin in 2018, the performance you had there, we probably hadn’t seen a top-class performance where you talk about Peter O’Mahony being man of the match [since then].
“What is different in his game is the passing, the touches, being able to offload; so he has added a little bit, and at any age you can do that.”
After a not-so-inspiring Autumn Nations Cup, the questions remained about Andy Farrell’s tenure as Irish boss, and the form of the national side.
Quinlan believes that the Irish teams’ performances in Europe are a positive step back towards a competitive national side.
“Sometimes your back can be completely against the wall and you have got to come out fighting and he has come out fighting,” Quinlan said.
“There is a feel-good factor. Leinster’s performance against Montpellier last week, [and although] it wasn’t there best game against Northampton on Saturday, they had a lot of disruption.
“Northampton didn’t throw in the towel if you like.
“Ulster were unlucky against Gloucester, it is a game that they should have won, and Connacht, well the better side won yesterday against Bristol, but they will look back with a bit of regret.”
More Munster players in the Ireland squad
With Munster and Leinster both undefeated in the Champions Cup this year, and Ulster and Connacht at least remaining competitive in their matches thus far, Quinlan thinks that Farrell may have some positive selection headaches to ponder in February next year.
“I think there is a little bit of a more positive feel about the Irish internationals, the way that they are playing, and hopefully they can carry that on into the Six Nations,” Quinlan said.
“I think Irish rugby in a sense, and Andy Farrell, needs more Munster guys to come through; it needs more Ulster and Connacht guys as well.
“The more those teams are playing better and having success in Europe [the better for Irish rugby].
“If you are doing well in Europe, you are knocking on the international door, you are putting your hand up.
“Big wins like this grab the attention of the Irish selectors and that is what happened at the weekend, particularly for Munster.”