Rugby-Ireland to assess Six Nations ambitions after Wales game

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Autumn Nations Cup - Ireland v Scotland - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland - December 5, 2020 Ireland head coach Andy Farrell before the match Pool via REUTERS/Brian Lawless

(Reuters) - Ireland need to get through their Six Nations opener against Wales before declaring their ambitions for the championship, coach Andy Farrell said on Wednesday.

France and England have been tipped as favourites while Ireland, who finished third in the last two campaigns after winning the title three times between 2014-18, are third in the bookmakers' pecking order.

"We're not far at all. We know where we're going, we know how far we are and we've made good strides; we're nearly where we want to be," Farrell told reporters.

"To win the Six Nations there's a few things we need to do better. We've got to through the first game and then we'll assess where we're at before thinking about the last game.

"We're a side that has developed in many ways but we're (still) putting the pieces together."

Ireland kick off their campaign against Wales in Cardiff on Feb. 7 before hosting France for the second round of matches and England on the final 'Super Saturday'.

They will be without Jacob Stockdale after the Ulster back sustained a knee injury on Jan. 2, but Farrell is hoping he will be back in action for the second part of the championship.

"He's progressing well, nothing too serious he has a bit of bone bruise and it takes a bit of time to settle down," said Farrell.

"We understand that he probably won't be available for the first two games but everything going well he'll be available for the remainder of the competition."

The mostly experienced Ireland squad will be captained by the 35-year-old Johnny Sexton, who hopes to be fully fit for the Wales game after picking up a minor muscle injury last weekend in club action with Leinster.

"It (Wales) is a tough game to get through now. I was in a good place before the Munster game. Get back on the horse and be ready next week," he said, while declining to comment on his future.

"Try to win the champ as captain would be brilliant," Sexton added.

"For me it's about to take it one campaign at a time. I'm focused. Stay on another year, or another two, I don't know."

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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