We are now just days away from the start of the 6 Nations and the hype is real. The squads are all announced and now fans are waiting to see who makes the 23-man matchday squads. But as we prepare for the tournament to begin, the question on everyone’s lips is “who will win?”
Schedule: Ireland (A), France (H), Wales (A), Italy (H), Scotland (H)
After a torrid time last tournament and a poor summer, England looked to be back on the up during the Autumn Tests and with a number of key personnel back from injury they will be looking to make a mark as they build towards the World Cup. Key to their hopes will be the return of Billy Vunipola, who has had awful luck recently with injuries. 3 home matches gives them a slight advantage over some of their rivals and I would expect all of them to result in victories, however they do have probably their hardest 2 matches both away from home in the form of Ireland and Wales.
Schedule: Wales (H), England (A), Scotland (H), Ireland (A), Italy (A)
It may be the greatest of clichés in rugby, but at this point, we still don’t know which France team will show up. They have an abundance of talent but the injury to Teddy Thomas leaves them potentially lacking a top quality winger. Only 2 home matches will not help their chances this year, I can’t see them having much luck at Twickenham or the Aviva Stadium and if things have not gone their way, a trip to Italy in the final round of matches could be a potential banana skin.
Schedule: England (H), Scotland (A), Italy (A), France (H), Wales (A)
Looking at the squads, Ireland have to be the favourites as they have such depth in almost every position, despite a few players missing through injury, not to mention they are a team on top form, with all 4 provinces having advanced to the knockout stages of their European Cups. Having only 2 home matches this year is not ideal, but with Italy being one of the away matches, I think that they will be largely happy with their schedule. I think that home advantage will see them past the English and the French, while the one real danger I can see is the trip to the Principality Stadium in the final round for a potential winner-take-all match.
Schedule: Scotland (A), Wales (H), Ireland (H), England (A), France (H)
Italy are a team on the up under Conor O’Shea but the loss of Matteo Minozzi and Jake Polledri will hurt them. Bonus points are probably the most they can hope for in their first 4 rounds, but a home match against France could be a big game with the Wooden Spoon on the line and I think that Italy could pull out the victory here, especially if France have struggled through the tournament.
Schedule: Italy (H), Ireland (H), France (A), Wales (H), England (A)
Scotland are a team that are so hard to judge. When they’re on form they look unstoppable, but when they are having a bad day, nothing appears to go right for them. They often appear much stronger at home than away, so a 3:2 home:away ratio this year is good news for them, however with 2 of those home matches being against Ireland and Wales, there is no guarantee this time around. I can’t see them beating Ireland, but I could see them snatching a win in France and using that as a springboard to win when hosting the Welsh in the next round. A win in Twickenham seems unlikely, but if the chance of victory is still there for the Scots and not the English, then they could pull off a big result over the Auld Enemy.
Schedule: France (A), Italy (A), England (H), Scotland (A), Ireland (H)
Wales are another team hard to predict at this stage. They have a number of injuries, with the back row severely hit and first choice kicker Leigh Halfpenny still out with concussion, however they are also a very experienced team who are on a run of good results. Like Ireland, their schedule has been largely friendly to them, with just 2 home matches being helped by a trip to Italy. The opening round match in Paris could go either way and will be largely dependent on which French team turns up, but I do see that as being an away win. England at home and Scotland away could both go either way but I can imagine at least 1 win and a bonus point loss from these and then it could all come down with a championship shootout in the final match against Ireland, where home advantage will be huge, but probably not quite enough to see them emerge victorious.
I think that we are going to see another Irish Grand Slam, but if they are going to lose a game I see it being the finale against Wales. If that is the case, I think that the Irish will still win by virtue of bonus points. I may be picking with my heart more than head at times, but my prediction for this year’s table is as follows:
How do you see this tournament going?
Before I finish, just a quick reminder that I am running fantasy rugby leagues for the 6 Nations on 2 sites this year. If you want to take part, you can find more details here.