In just under 2 weeks the annual RBS Six Nations tournament kicks off, on Friday the 6th February 2015. Six teams from across Europe: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales compete to become the Six Nations champions. Everyone involved will be looking to kick start their preparations for September’s Rugby World Cup (hosted by England) and there’s no better tonic to do this than a good Six Nations. The Irish will be looking to retain the trophy and every team longs for a prestigious grand slam! We now take a look at each of the 6 teams to feature in the tournament, which is set to be full of close encounters.
England kick off the 2015 six nations’ tournament with a crunch tie against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Friday, 6th February. With Stuart Lancaster naming his 34-man training squad this week, there are still a lot of question marks as to who will make the final 23 man squad come the 6th Feb. Some of the big talking points regarding Lancaster’s selection comes from the inclusion of Danny Cipriani and 36 year old Nick Easter. Talented Sale fly-half Cipriani featured in two out of three of England’s test matches in June ending a six year exile. However, he has not started a game for England at number 10 since 2008. Harlequin’s back-row Easter has not played for England since Lancaster took charge following a poor 2011 World Cup campaign, but his brilliant club form and injury to Ben Morgan has led to a possible International career revival. With doubts over who to pick in key positions including half-back, in the midfield and on the wings Lancaster still has some big decisions to make very soon and England’s success could depend on this. Meanwhile someone who will be on Lancaster’s World Cup radar will be former Rugby League superstar Sam Burgess was called up to the England Lions squad this week.
Key Player – Jonny May, the 22 year old is capable of playing centre, on the wing or full back and has the ability to make the try line on a regular basis.
Predicted Finish – 2nd
France kick off their tournament on home soil at the Stade de France on 7th February. They come up against a Scotland side that finished 5th last year. With France ending up 19-17 winners last year they will be hoping for more of the same this year. The French are renowned for their free flowing Rugby and when they let the ball go to their backs there is no better sight in the game of Rugby Union. They will be looking for a repeat of the 2010 tournament when they won the grand slam, but they remain infuriatingly inconsistent as shown in the autumn where they defeated Fiji and Australia but then lost at home to Argentina. France have a very impressive squad but this year they have to travel to Ireland and England, which is a menacing task for any side. But France’s unpredictability mean’s anything could happen.
Key Player – Camille Lopez, the Clermont man has a bright future ahead and if he keeps the 10 jersey France could achieve the consistency they so desperately desire.
Predicted Finish – 3rd
Ireland were grand slam winners in 2009 sweeping all before them although they will find it hard to repeat that feat again this year they are still one of the favourites to win. The holders of the championship trophy will be aiming to repeat last year’s performance, the boys in green have been taken to new heights under their coach, Joe Schmidt. Ireland go into the six nations off the back of a great autumn season going unbeaten against Georgia, South Africa and Australia. Despite losing Brian 0’Driscoll to retirement after last year’s Six Nations tournament the Irish team are still a formidable outfit with experienced heads such as Johnny Sexton and the likes of Best, O’Connell and Bowe. Due to this they are the pick of the six teams involved and our favourites to win the tournament.
Key Player – Johnny Sexton, the Irishman will miss the opener with concussion but before his injury he was in the form of his life and arguably the leading number 10 in world rugby.
Predicted Finish – 1st
Italy kick of their Six Nation’s campaign at home to defending champions Ireland. The game takes place at the Stadio Olimpico on the 7th February at 14:30. Despite one win in the autumn Internationals, Italy performed well and are showing signs of improvement. They started the Autumn Internationals with a good win against Samoa, this was followed up by a narrow defeat to Argentina and then finished with a heavy loss to a physical South African side. After failing to win a game in last year’s Six Nations’, Coach Jacques Brunel and his side will be hoping to claim a scalp this time round. The key to this side’s improvement is consistency and if they can continue with it then we can see them improve as much as Argentina have since joining the Rugby Championship.
Key Player – Sergio Parisse, the lively captain plays in the Top14 for Stade Francais and regularly scores tries, gets sin binned and produces man of the match performances.
Predicted Finish – 6th
Vern Cotter’s Scotland side take on France in their opening game of the 2015 Six Nations. Cotter who goes to his first Six Nations tournament as Scotland Coach will be hoping the team can improve on their 5th place finish last year. If recent performances are a positive sign of things to come then we look back to the team’s recent performance against the All Blacks. They led the World Cup holders for a period of time before losing out 16-24. The Scots also played Argentina and Tonga, defeating both teams and impressing everyone with the attacking nature of their performances. With the likes of Jonny Gray, Finn Russell, Tommy Seymour and Henry Pyrgos all impressing in recent games the Scotland fans should have a lot of confidence going into this year’s Six Nations tournament.
Key Player – Greig Laidlaw, the scrum half is Scotland’s captain and the man who ignites the exciting backs that play outside him. He is also a very reliable and consistent kicker.
Predicted Finish – 5th
2012 Grand Slam winners and 2013 Winners, Wales kick off their tournament with a home match at Twickenham against Stuart Lancaster’s England side on the 6th February. Coach Warren Gatland has got the team playing excellent rugby and despite a poor run of defeats throughout the autumn internationals, this Welsh side is still capable of beating any one on their day. In recent times we’ve seen an influx of Welsh Internationals ply their domestic trade in France with the likes of Dan Lydiate, Jonathan Davies, Mike Phillips, Leigh Halfpenny and Jamie Roberts. As a result of this their form has suffered. But this Wales team is still capable of winning any match they play and are still extremely dangerous.
Key Player – Rhys Webb, top scorer in the PRO 12 with 7 tries and also adding another couple in the autumn for the national team, there aren’t many better scrum halves in the world right now.
Predicted Finish – 4th
Other honours and trophies to look out for that are contested:
• Triple Crown: Is the honour contested between the 4 teams of the British Isles.
• Calcutta Cup: 14th March: Trophy awarded to the Winner of England V Scotland.
• Millennium Trophy: 1st March: Trophy awarded to the winner of England V Ireland
• Centenary Quaich: 21st March: The winner of Ireland V Scotland
• Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy: 15th March: The winner of Italy V France