It’s that time of year, as February approaches, when the sports-minded start to review the 6 Nations rugby championship, and this year it appears that it could be significantly more competitive than previous years due to the resurgence of Scotland,the unpredictability of France,the flair of Wales, the tenacity of Italy and the ever powerful England.
The 5 Nations became the 6 Nations in year 2000 when Italy joined the fold, and England head the cumulative 2000-2017 table with 64 wins out of a total of 90 games played.Ireland are next with 58 wins and France close behind with 57.Wales come next on 49, Scotland with 24 and Italy on a lowly 12.
England won the 2017 championship from Ireland and France and, interestingly, Stuart Hogg of Scotland was voted Player of the Tournament in both 2016 & 2017.England have had only one winner of the PooT,Mike Brown in 2014.Ronan O’Gara of Ireland holds both the appearance (63) and overall points scoring (557) records.
England are the 5/6 favourites for this year’s tournament but are suffering, like a lot of the other nations, many injuries.Particularly disappointing is Billy Vunipola’s absence due to a broken arm having just returned form 3 month’s injury but they also have 12 further squad members who are currently incapacitated including Nathan Hughes who would have replaced Billy Vunipola at No.8.
Wales are going to be without both their first choice choice fly-halves in Dan Biggar and Rhys Priestland along with the mazy runner Liam Williams and one of their best back-row forwards Dan Lydiate.Scotland have 7 front row forwards missing and Ireland have the excellent Sean O’Brien and the upcoming Gary Ringrose missing.
Saturday 3rd February
Wales v Scotland – Wales have home advantage but despite their injury issues,Scotland are on a high after their win over Australia in the Autumn.Forecast….very close!
France v Ireland – France will set off at 100 mph but Ireland will finish at top speed and have two of the top teams in Europe in Leinster and Munster.Forecast – Ireland should take this.
Sunday 4th February
Italy v England – Italy may well win the first half but England’ strength in depth,and Owen Farrell kicking the many penalties Italy will give away, should ensure a victory, but it could be very close as England are traditionally slow starters.
Players to watch??
England – the dependable professionals Owen Farrell & Maro Itoje but watch out for the dynamic Sam Simmons from Exeter who may start as the replacement No.8 and we hope to get a sighting of the 18 year old Harlequin Marcus Smith at No.10 who has been very impressive this season.
Ireland – British Lion Ian Henderson and the dynamic South African CJ Stander in the forwards and the British Isles’ best half-backs Connor Murray & Johnny Sexton .
Wales – the ever dependable Alun Wyn Jones in the forwards and look out for a return to top form from wing George North just recovered from injury.
Scotland – if they win enough ball then the elusive full back Stuart Hogg and the conductor Finn Russell at No.10.
France – 19 year old fly-half Mathieu Jalibert and loose-head Dany Priso in an exciting new-look squad selected by France’s new Head Coach Jacques Brunel ex.of Bordeaux.
Italy – the inevitable force that is No.8 Sergio Parisse and Jake Polledri the Gloucester flanker who has been putting in some barn-storming performances for them this year.
The local 6 Nations competition which we started in 2012 with 4 contestants gathers pace and we have already 18 participants based around the Friday Evening Club in The Royal Oak.If you want to participate then come and have a drink this Friday or next but….no later as it all starts on 3rd February!! £5 to enter,half to the winner and the rest to the Air Ambulance.
February weekends light up as we anticipate these games but…. who will be crowned Champion..??! Ireland look poised…..but a very tasty set of games!