Men’s Rugby Union The Six Nations is back!


THE SIX NATIONS rugby union jamboree kicks off this weekend and fans from each nation have a few hours to indulge in Grand Slam dreams.

But by the end of the game tomorrow, three nations will have burst that bubble.

This could be the closest championship yet, as five teams are all in a shot at the title, with Italy destined to be bottom again.

So who is most likely to emerge victorious?

Autumn internationals gave an indication of potential form with France and Ireland enjoying wins over the mighty All Blacks and England pulling off a narrow victory against South Africa.

But home advantage and the draw have given some teams a better chance than others and France will start their campaign tomorrow with a home draw against Italy.

Almost a safe banker for a resurgent France to gain some momentum with a delightful second draw at home to follow against Ireland.

But Les Bleus have not won the Six Nations since 2010 and face trips to Scotland and Wales, both potential banana skins for head coach Fabien Galthie’s side.

Les Bleus struck gold when they lured Sean Edwards to join their coaching team. The hallmark of Edwards’ teams is their defensive strength and his iron discipline.

This was combined with the French flair and the team looked like a potential world champion when they racked up 40 points in November against the mighty All Blacks.

The midfield pair of fly half Romain Ntamack and captain and scrum half Antoine Dupont is a world combination.

Wales are champions but enter the tournament with a perennial question mark against them as a series of injuries during autumn internationals disrupted coach Wayne Pivac’s team formation.

See also  World nations try to balance Omicron restrictions while keeping economies open

The head coach was forced to pick inexperienced players who lost badly to New Zealand but managed to stay within a converted try in their loss to the Springboks.

Bleeding so many youngsters adds to the depth of Pivac’s squad, which has been hit again with a long injury list that includes Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, George North, Ken Owens and Taulupe Faletau.

Taine Basham on the open side is the latest of the Welsh conveyor belt of talent at number seven and is making his Six Nations debut.

But the 22-year-old Dragons defender marked his Wales debut last summer with two tries against Canada, before a man-of-the-match display against New Zealand in the autumn.

An opening match away from home in Ireland is a tall order for a depleted Wales, but the defenders have great pace and talent with a fit Louis Rees-Zammit on the wing and Josh Adams in the centre.

Ireland had a glorious set of autumn internationals with a convincing victory over the All Blacks and a strong victory against Argentina.

While Ireland will focus on Wales, head coach Andy Farrell is putting together his squad with next year’s World Cup in France in mind.

Jonny Sexton is the talisman and playmaker of his team and will be a great target.

Ireland are relatively injury-free and during their autumn campaign they developed a fluid attacking approach.

The depth strength Ireland are developing should allow them to get past Wales in the opening match.

Scotland host the old foe at Murrayfield and enjoy bragging rights after victory at Twickenham last season.

See also  the PSOE loses seven seats and will not be able to govern

That historic result ended a 38-year losing streak in the citadel of England: victory in Paris also showed that the Scots can win anywhere.

Scotland are light on injuries and have a rejuvenated Finn Russell as fly-half to pull the creative strings.

Captain and full back, Stuart Hogg is enjoying a strong season at Exeter Chiefs, coupled with a back line that includes Russell, Duhan van der Merwe, Cameron Redpath and Ali Price, the Scots can play at pace and pick up points.

A set of talented and settled forwards will have fans dreaming of a first Six Nations title, despite only reaching the heights of third place as their best finish.

A home win against England will give the team some momentum heading into Cardiff and what has become bogey ground for the Scots.

Meanwhile, Azzurri fans will dream of at least one victory and perhaps not be automatic winners of the wooden spoon.

Italy’s place in the tournament has become an increasing topic of conversation as the other teams compete to rack up points against the weaker side.

Playing France first in Paris means that realistically the game the Azzurri have the most chance of winning is their fourth-round game against Scotland in Rome.

Eddie Jones’s England finished a disappointing fifth place last year with just two wins from five games.

Much of the criticism of the team stemmed from the stubborn manager’s selection of out-of-form and under-form players from Saracens and the team’s propensity to concede soft penalties.

The Vunipola brothers and Owen Farrell will sit out the tournament, while England regained some form last autumn when Jones brought in new talent.

See also  Gay man attacked with hammer while walking down street with boyfriend

The injury that will keep Farrell out of the tournament could be a blessing in disguise, as it means Marcus Smith will be the team’s undisputed playmaker.

The matchup against Scotland of the two wizards in the fly-half is one of the delicious battles on offer.

The English strikers had a torrid moment at the scrum in their November win over South Africa, but the home team edged out the world champions by a point.

The key to England being able to start their campaign with a win at Murrayfield will be whether the forwards can withstand pressure from opponents and a hostile crowd.

The battle forward is the crucial area for teams and World Rugby and Six Nations Rugby have confirmed the use of a close trial of law at this year’s tournament which is aimed at promoting scrum stability and player welfare.

Both hookers will now be required to ensure that one foot (the ‘brake foot’) is extended towards the opposition during the duck and hold phases of the scrum entry sequence and the referees will penalize a missed free throw.

What impact this will have is anyone’s guess, but it adds even more uncertainty to a delicious tournament.

Get ready to party!


morningstaronline.co.uk

Related Posts

George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.