Six Nations Preview
Are rightly the favourites after their performances in the 6 nations and with Clermont, Toulon and Toulouse all going well in the Heineken cup things are looking up for the French. They are very powerful up front and the backs after a little period of transition are looking exciting again. Basteraud the human wrecking ball in the centres is back in the squad but he will be hard pushed to displace Fofana, who has really shown himself to be a quality centre in the H Cup. They have many combinations to play in the back row and the bench will be frightening to any side. They should be winning their home games but the odds of just 2-1 look very slim for me considering that they have to travel to both Twickenham to play a resurgent England and also to Dublin to face Ireland who were also pretty good in the Autumn.
Prediction – They should be there or thereabouts but I can’t see them winning both of these games and that makes the 2-1 far too short for me. 3rd
They played a fantastic game against NZ in the Autumn but put into perspective NZ were at the end of a 10 game globe trotting international period in 3 months, and with a bug in the camp we didn’t see the NZ we know but that of a tired side looking to get home. The ease of some of the breaks made would not have been made in previous weeks and let us not forget they were pretty clueless against weakened South African and Australian sides. They are going the right way though under Lancaster and I expect more improvement in this tournament but the lack of a real openside may prove costly in the cold and wet tight games where turnovers and penalties will edge you home. They also have to travel to Ireland which will be a big match.
Prediction – They have improved and have more to come with players coming back in but the trip to Ireland and some potentially tough matches in poor conditions suggest they won’t win this and at 11/4 are also a no bet. 2nd
Ireland did fairly well in the Autumn internationals and are now beginning to welcome back some of their stars that have been long term injuries with O Driscoll back to action this weekend. They have needed to integrate the younger players with the experienced backbone and seem to have done this well with Gilroy on the wing looking a star in the making. They only have the 2 home games this year but welcome both England and France and with the other 3 looking quite weak they will be eyeing up a good tournament.
Prediction – With both favourites at home and the out of form Wales, the poor Scotland and the potentially tricky Italians all away. If things are well in the build up and they suffer no more injuries this could be a very good year for Ireland – Winners (possible Grand Slam)
Winners of the Grand Slam last year to not winning a game since has seen Wales fall from grace and it will only be a matter of time before they look to change their policy regarding their players at the French clubs. We have seen Cardiff and Llanelli not compete this year in the H cup and the Ospreys have only just picked up, their sides just aren’t getting quality Rugby in the Rabo Direct league. They are also suffering from a horrendous lengthy injury list that keeps getting longer and will do well to compete this year.
Prediction – Wales have been awful losing all their AI’s including Argentina and Samao and will struggle again, however they are better than Scotland and should finish above them. 4th
Andy Robinson leaving after the Autumn Internationals was no surprise after Scotland have shown no progression in the last 2 years. The lack of depth in their squad allows for no injuries and with both Glasgow and Edinburgh putting in poor shows in both Europe and the Rabo direct league this year there appears to be not much hope for the next year or two. They do have the capability to raise their standards for a game and will be a threat to one of the teams when they get it right which is about the best they can hope for.
Prediction – they do have Italy at home which will be the wooden spoon decider but it will take a very big effort to beat one of the other sides. 5th
are in a period of transition and are starting to produce some backs with a bit of flair to add to the real grunt and power of the pack. They are still looking for that quality fly half that can control games behind the pack or unleash the backs when needed. They will be as always tricky to beat on their home turf and if given a sniff and level or up at HT the away side will find this very tricky to claw back. I would look to take the handicap on them at home and against them when away.
Prediction – Scotland in Edinburgh will be the big game for them but they could also give Wales a fright. A lot better showing from them but think the wooden spoon beckons.
Sat 2nd Feb 13 13:30 Wales v Ireland Millennium Stadium
Sat 2nd Feb 13 16:00 England v Scotland Twickenham
Sun 3rd Feb 13 15:00 Italy v France Stadio Olimpico
Sat 9th Feb 13 14:30 Scotland v Italy Murrayfield
Sat 9th Feb 13 17:00 France v Wales Stade de France
Sun 10th Feb 13 15:00 Ireland v England Aviva Stadium
Sat 23rd Feb 13 14:30 Italy v Wales Stadio Olimpico
Sat 23rd Feb 13 17:00 England v France Twickenham
Sun 24th Feb 13 14:00 Scotland v Ireland Murrayfield
Sat 9th Mar 13 14:30 Scotland v Wales Murrayfield
Sat 9th Mar 13 17:00 Ireland v France Aviva Stadium
Sun 10th Mar 13 15:00 England v Italy Twickenham
Sat 16th Mar 13 14:30 Italy v Ireland Stadio Olimpico
Sat 16th Mar 13 17:00 Wales v England Millennium Stadium
Sat 16th Mar 13 20:00 France v Scotland Stade de France