The tail end of 2015 was a pretty rough time to be an Ireland fan – the humbling climax of their World Cup campaign was compounded by the reality that it also spelled the end for Paul O’Connell’s test career, and beset by injuries, Joe Schmidt’s men limp towards the Six Nations with much to prove.
However, amongst all this negativity, it’s easy to forget that Ireland are back-to-back Six Nations champions, with a core of players who’ve won it all before and perhaps the most well-regarded coach in the tournament.
Write them off at your peril then, and while it’s all a bit disjointed in the playing staff, Ireland at least have some continuity in the shirt stakes for the 2016 tournament. Yup, the gorgeous Canterbury home shirt that they wore for the World Cup has been tweaked and pressed back into service for the annual spectacle, and that’s no bad thing at all.
All the most striking elements of the World Cup design are present and correct, from the retro-fabulous diamond-filled chevron on the chest, to the absolutely awesome 3D injection-moulded badge, as also seen on the England shirt.
It’s a beacon of classy, vaguely 70s-style minimalism, with the usual modern tweaks we’ve come to expect from Canterbury, and it’s one of the nicest shirts in the tournament as a result.
Unfortunately, if we get the handsome classiness of the World Cup home shirt, the flip side of the coin means that Ireland are also lumbered with the same much less appealing change shirt.
As with the RWC edition, all the complaints focus around the green 360° Loop sleeves and neckline on the otherwise black shirt. We’ve spoken before about how this season’s hot Canterbury design concept can be hit or miss, and here it’s most definitely a miss.
It’s a shame, because we don’t object to the concept of black and green as a change shirt, but in this instance it just ends up looking more like a training shirt, which is never the look you want.
On the plus side of course, this is the Six Nations, there’ll be no course for them to use it at all, and unless they contravene test match tradition, they won’t need to use it for the summer tour to South Africa either.
Two shirts at very different ends of the scale then – a home shirt that’s absolutely gorgeous and verging on a modern classic, and an away shirt that looks cobbled together and we’re not at all upset that it probably won’t get a run out.
While that doesn’t detract from how lovely the home shirt is, it does mean we can’t quite justify giving them a collective Gold Award. Still, it’s a beauty.