5 Dec, 14:49
The Ireland Under-19 squad to face Australia Schools at Ravenhill on Saturday week (December 14) has been announced.
Six matches already done-and-dusted - only 22 tries scored, and certainly a long way to go before the madness of March makes its prediction on the destination of the Six Nations trophy.
Certainly, the over-bearing duopoly of tournament heavy-hitters England and France has looked a good deal shaky in the past fortnight.
Andy Robinson's new-look side are yet to post a win, and the 2004-winning French have only one try to their name - and even that, Damien Traille's late effort in the 16-9 win over Scotland was the result of a defensive mishap.
Contrast that with last season, and by the end of 2004's second weekend, Bernard Laporte's men had run up a tally of seven touchdowns - all but ending Eddie O'Sullivan's side's hopes of challenging for the Championship with an opening day 35-17 dismissal.
How times have changed? Now boasting the top points scorer, joint-top try scorer and arguably the best backs-and-forwards combination in Europe, Ireland - already with eight tries to their name - are deservedly hogging the bookmakers' attentions with France and Wales - second in the standing to the Irish, on points difference.
It's still too early to make a mildly-intelligent prediction on the outcome, but in chalking up their nineteenth and twentieth wins of the Six Nations since the welcome addition of Italy - the men-in-green have interestingly drawn level with both England and France, as the most successful nations in the tournament - in terms of wins-to-losses - over the past five seasons.
Each of the leading trio now has a 20-0-7 record - with Dimitri Yachvili's six-gun penalty salute at Twickenham last Sunday ensuring les Bleus' twentieth win since 2000.
Makes you wonder, going on that, just how O'Sullivan's charges have missed out on Championship success?
There's good reason however why Wales or Ireland should make it a Celtic triumph - years ending in '5' have been good to both. The Principality celebrated titles in 1905, 1965 and 1975 while the Irish were victorious in both 1935 and 1985.
Has a certain symmetry to it?
Top Points Scorers:
Ireland 68, Wales 49, France 34, England 26, Italy 25, Scotland 22
Top Try Scorers:
Ireland 8, Wales 7, England 2, Italy 2, Scotland 2, France 1
Top Percentage Kickers:
Ireland: 5/8 conversions, 6/6 penalties, 0/3 drop gls (64.7%) France: 1/1 cons, 8/13 pens, 1/2 drop gls (62.5%) Wales: 4/7 cons, 2/5 pens, 0/2 drop gls (42.86%) England: 2/2 cons, 4/11 pens, 0/2 drop gls (40%) Scotland: 0/2 cons, 4/6 pens, 0/3 drop gls (36.4%) Italy: 0/2 cons, 5/10 pens, 0/2 drop gls (35.7%)
Top Set Piece Percentage Return:
Ireland: Scrums won 10/10, Lineouts won 36/40 (92%) Scotland: Scrums won 9/9, Lineouts won 34/38 (91.5%) France: Scrums won 11/11, Lineouts won 29/34 (88.9%) England: Scrums won 14/14, Lineouts won 31/37 (88.2%) Italy: Scrums won 12/12, Lineouts won 33/39 (88.2%) Wales: Scrums won 16/17, Lineouts won 28/35 (84.6%)
Top Performers In The Loose:
Ireland: Mauls won 15, Turnovers won 16 France: Mauls won 20, Turnovers won 7 England: Mauls won 13, Turnovers won 10 Wales: Mauls won 5, Turnovers won 16 Italy: Mauls won 10, Turnovers won 9 Scotland: Mauls won 7, Turnovers won 11
Top Tackle Percentage:
France: 168/181 (93%) Ireland: 108/118 (91.6%) England: 96/105 (91.5%) Wales: 137/153 (89.6%) Scotland: 112/126 (88.9%) Italy: 125/146 (85.6%)
Ronan O'Gara (Ireland) 26 points, Dimitri Yachvili (France) 18, Charlie Hodgson (England) 16, Roland de Marigny (Italy), Chris Paterson (Scotland) 12 each, Stephen Jones (Wales) 11, Denis Hickie (Ireland), Shane Williams (Wales) 10 each
Top Try Scorers:
Denis Hickie (Ireland), Shane Williams (Wales) 2 each (*18 players on one each, including Geordan Murphy, Peter Stringer, Malcolm O'Kelly, Paul O'Connell, John Hayes and Gavin Duffy (all Ireland))
Andy Craig (Scotland) 14, Jason Robinson (England) 13, Sergio Parisse (Italy) 12, Chris Cusiter (Scotland), Allister Hogg (Scotland) 11 each --- Geordan Murphy (Ireland) 7
Martyn Williams (Wales) 17, Aaron Persico (Italy) 16, Serge Betsen (France) 15, Jason White (Scotland) 11 --- Paul O'Connell (Ireland), Shane Horgan (Ireland) 7 each
Most Missed Tackles:
Yann Delaigue (France) 4, Jamie Noon (England), Ronan O'Gara (Ireland), Julien Bonnaire (France), Andrea Masi (Italy) 3 each (*11 players on two each, including Denis Hickie (Ireland))
Sebastien Chabal (France), Jason White (Scotland) 3 each (*7 players on two each, including Shane Horgan (Ireland))
Ronan O'Gara (Ireland) 15, Luciano Orquera (Italy) 8, Yann Delaigue (France), Gordon Bulloch (Scotland) 6 each, Steve Thompson (England), Gavin Henson (Wales) 5 each --- Geordan Murphy (Ireland) 3, Shane Horgan (Ireland) 2
* Stats supplied by Computacenter