The script was written.
England – on the back of a successful World Cup in which they were clearly the best of the Northern Hemisphere teams – were going to win.
Wales and Ireland – teams in transition: new coaches, new squads, new captains, new ethics – were going to provide us with insight into how far they’ve come since last Autumn’s disappointment.
Scotland – so much to prove – would battle it out and maybe provide some upsets on the way.
France – again with a new coach – would try to be more clinical but ultimately fail to compete with the strength of England’s squad.
And Italy – well, Italy were going to lose.
And then, the Saracens Salary Cap debacle happened. (Debacle seems to be the only word to describe it at the moment: fiasco, altercation, f**k-up, do they work? I imagine soon it will be a gate). Anyway, that happened, and the script got ripped up.
Who knows what the atmosphere will be like in the England camp at the moment? Players, through gritted teeth, talking about the importance of ‘unity’. Young first timers, such as Fraser Dingwall and Ben Earl, not knowing if they’re allowed to talk to one-another; others, frantically calling their agent trying to secure a lucrative move to France for the new season.
Meanwhile, the other contenders will be emboldened by the fact that the clear frontrunners are in a moment of confusion and disarray.
Wayne ‘Policeman’ Pivac will see this as the perfect opportunity to make a statement and follow on from the Six Nations success of his predecessor. Andy Farrell will be looking to get one over on his son. Scotland will smell blood and attempt to continue their recent positive run of form against England; while Les Blues will see this weekend as the perfect opportunity to kick a dog when it’s down.
Italy, unfortunately, well Italy are going to lose.
Six Nations’ at the start of World Cup cycles are weird. Teams are in transition, new players are being blooded, arguably the fire and the hunger is not there to the same extent it was the previous February.
But if you thought this Six Nations was going to be predictable, in light of the recent events that shocked rugby to its core, think again.
By Will Sewell.