This year’s Six Nations kicks off on Saturday with mixed predictions from all the pundits as to who will win the Championship. Having said that I can’t remember anyone forecasting a Grand Slam and I think that they are probably right in that thinking.
One of my favourite rugby writers is Stephen Jones (Times and Rugby World), but I do take some issue with him in his condemnation of some games now being played on Friday and Sunday. For my money the bad old days when games were played at the same time on Saturday afternoon meant you missed at least one match each weekend. He may not like the advent of varying kick-off times but it hasn’t damaged attendances and the TV audiences have grown dramatically. Having said that Mr Jones has the best and most instrructive views on what England should be doing – good on him – pity that the RFU don’t always take any notice!
The nature of rugby now is that every team will have to learn to cope with long term injuries to key players – it is a truism that those with the strongest back-up squads will be the ones who manage best.
Wales, for all their home front problems look the most settled and strong squad and although they have injuries and a ban which will cause them some concern they are probably less damaged by unavailability than their main rivals. But they still have to go to Dublin and Twickenham and I think they’ll stumble at one of those stadiums. Nevertheless I expect them to top the table come 7 pm on the 15th March.
England have come second in the last two tournaments but didn’t look all that convincing in either one. They now have a more formidable pack and it seems we may at last see some backs who can do more than tackle fiercely.
Ireland and France both look strong too – so it is easy to see why there are a number of differing views on the final outcome.
Scotland will be hard pushed to equal their relatively good standing from last year and Italy are likely to struggle once more.
This weekend I believe Wales and Ireland will win with something to spare and England may just squeeze a result in Paris as St Andre looks for a settled formula.
My Final Table –
Whatever happens we are in for some exciting rugby over the next few weeks. I can’t wait!