Six Nations: Ireland breakdown

Tommy Bowe. Picture: Getty Images

Tommy Bowe. Picture: Getty Images

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Do Ireland have what it takes to take top spot?

Coach: Joe Schmidt.

Captain: Rory Best.

Old dog: If Tommy Bowe was picked on form it belonged to 2013 rather than the current campaign.

New faces: Two Scannell brothers from Munster. Hooker Niall obviously elbowed his way to the front of the milk queue because Rory is a centre.

Six Nations record: 3rd, 5th, 1st, 1st, 3rd.

Missing the action: The Kiwi centre Jared Payne is a big loss, especially his defensive organisation, hooker Sean Cronin is sidelined and, while he should start the tournament, the odds on Jonny Sexton finishing it are lengthening by the day.

Reasons to be cheerful: That big back row consists of 33 per cent knees, 33 per cent elbows and a similar proportion of raw, barely bridled aggression and 100 per cent of it is heading your way.

Reasons to be fearful: Neither of the likely starting wingers, Keith Earls and Andrew Trimble, are world beaters and neither are aerial specialists, so Simon Zebo has a lot of ground to cover at the back.

Odds: 5/2

Prediction: 1st

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