It is nearly here. The Six Nations kicks off on Friday night in Paris when France take on Wales. Being a World Cup year there is even more pressure on teams and individuals to perform. This year is predicted by many to be the best and closest tournament ever, featuring 3 of the top 4 teams in the world.
Here is my comprehensive review of each squad and their chances in this years’ tournament. In no particular order!
Wales have not won the tournament since 2013 but seem to be peaking at the right time. It is Warren Gatland’s last 6 Nations in charge which will add a little bit more passion and spice into the squad. The fixture list has been relatively kind to Wales this year and it could very well come down to a Grand Slam decider against Ireland in Cardiff on Super Saturday (if results go to plan).
The long-term absence of Leigh Halfpenny will be a concern but they have depth in the full back position and have a real opportunity to put down a marker. In my opinion they do not have a squad that can compete with the power and talent of Ireland and England but could get off to a flyer with a win in Paris in the opening game.
Alun Wyn Jones is a hero. His leadership makes him the best captain in the championship and potentially the world right now. He will lead the team from the front and will be key if they want to continue their winning run.
2019 PREDICTION: 3rd
What can we say! The French team is predictably unpredictable. After a successful 6 Nations last year including a memorable win against England, France then collapsed in the summer on tour in New Zealand. This was followed up with a pretty disastrous Autumn including an embarrassing loss at home against Fiji.
It seems the ongoing inconsistency of French Rugby is not going anywhere. Last year they were competitive through the entire 6 Nations and it took a last-minute Sexton drop goal for Ireland to claim victory. If France can perform at their best, they can beat anyone. They could also win the Wooden Spoon.
Guilhem Guirado keeps his role as Captain and will be vitally important to control the game. The French pack is reported to be the heaviest international pack of all time and Guirado will be a key man in the middle of that pack.
2019 PREDICTION: 5th
What a year Ireland have had and it looks like the Irish juggernaut will continue to dominate world rugby. Other than a slight knee injury to Jonny Sexton, Joe Schmidt has named a full-strength team as they go into the tournament as the bookies favourite.
This Irish squad has everything. A huge front 5 that can dominate the set piece and a back row that can get around the park and add massive ball carrying options the pack will be looking to over power opposition. When Jonny Sexton is on form (which is most of the time) then Ireland are arguably the best team in the world. They kick off the tournament with a huge home game against rivals England.
After coming out of nowhere in last years tournament, Jacob Stockdale went on to be the top try scorer and Man of the Championship. Since then he has built on his success and scored 12 tries in his 14 caps so far. He will be looking for a big tournament going into the world cup. Don’t be surprised if we see a couple of chip and chase tries.
2019 PREDICTION: 1st
Eddie Jones is becoming the Tinker Man. Somewhere between madness and genius. His selection decisions have always been controversial and unpredictable. Despite a disastrous campaign in last years 6 Nations it looks like the squad has regrouped and even came close to a memorable win against New Zealand at Twickenham.
With the return of Joe Launchbury and Billy Vunipola to the pack it looks like they have a bit more fire power this time round. England have a tough draw and start with potentially the toughest away trip to Ireland. It might not be the worst thing to take on Ireland during the opening weekend. Perhaps England could catch them unprepared. This England squad looks to have much more balance and with less injuries than previous years I would expect them to have a strong tournament.
If Billy Vunipola can keep fit, he will be key to England’s success. Without him they look a little underpowered. He brings big ball carrying and gets the go forward that England need to win games.
2019 Prediction: 2nd
Scotland had an impressive 2018 and have been playing some of the most entertaining rugby in the Northern Hemisphere. Scotland won the Calcutta cup for the first time in 10 years and had one of their most successful 6 Nations in many years.
The squad will feel extra confident after the success of club sides Edinburgh and Glasgow in Europe this season. Both teams have qualified for the Champions Cup quarter finals for the first time in history and the majority of the Scotland squad comes from these 2 clubs. They will be seen as a dark horse coming into the tournament and may cause a couple of upsets.
Stuart Hogg is a world class full back and he adds a real touch of class to the Scotland back line. Expect him to be in the middle of some flowing attacks and adding extra security at the back.
2019 Prediction: 4th
It is coming up to 20 years since Italy joined the 6 Nations and they still have not really proved that they are competitive. Head Coach Conor O’Shea seems to be building something slowly but they really need to start picking up some victories. They have now gone 10 games without a win and desperately need something to celebrate this year.
O’Shea has targeted 1 win in this campaign and with 3 home games they have a slight advantage in the fixtures although they have not won a 6 Nations game in Rome since 2013. It is a long process of building a competitive team at the top level but the investment has to bear fruit very soon.
Fly half Tommaso Allan is a key man as he controls the game and has been very good with the boot. The top Italian point scorer in 2018 he will be vital if Italy want to pick up a win or 2.
2019 Prediction: 6th
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