The European rugby world is understandably excited about this weekend’s Six Nations openers. To help you get in on that excitement we’ve offered our take on who will finish where this year.
6. Scotland: We begin this year with the Wooden Spoon. Scotland fans will point the the prognostications last year that said they would finish last but then ended up a surprising third. We’d counter that they still finished with a losing record and that only wins came against Italy and a very poor Ireland. They were the only team to lose to France. Just scanning their line-up against Ireland and you’re left wondering who is going to carry the team. They are going to live and die with their forwards but likely won’t be good enough. In all honesty, Scotland should be targeting Italy for a win and hope they catch a lucky break somewhere else.
5. Italy: Sergio Parisse and Martin Castrogiovanni are world class players that could start on any other Six Nations squad. However, behind them there isn’t much depth. The Bergamasco brothers are solid but they are also getting up their in years. Italy are tough to beat at home but they will struggle badly on the road. When you take into account that the vast majority of their squad comes from Benetton Treviso or Zebre then you know they are going to have problems.
4. England: We’re take a bit of risk here and saying that England will not finish in the top half of the table. Stuart Lancaster has made a number of changes to his team, including dropping Chris Ashton from the squad. The team has has chosen defnitely has a 2015 feel to it. Going with youth is a smart move ahead of the World Cup but it could mean that England struggle this year. The talent is there with the likes of Dylan Hartley, Chris Robshaw, Owen Farrell, and George Ford all available, but there are going to be some holes that will need to be filled.
3. France: The French have been a very hard team to read as of late. They were terrible last year despite having many talented players. French players see the best rugby week in and week out in the Top 14 but that may also be their downfall as clubs have chosen to bring in foreigners in key positions. The team is going to have to answer a lot of questions, especially at fly-half where they only have Castres’s Francois Trinh-Duc as a natural fit. Louis Picamoles and Wesley Fofana will be asked to carry the team. They still have a lot of talent and if they get hot they can beat anyone, that is why they are our pick to finish ahead of England.
2. Wales: No team has won the Six Nations three times in a row. Wales have as good a shot as anyone. Top to bottom they are the most talented and deep team in Europe. George North, Jaime Roberts, Leigh Halfpenny, and Richard Hibbard are regarded as some of the best in the world for a reason. Sure, they were a bit fortunate to end up with the title last year but at least they put themselves in a position to make it happen. So why won’t they win this year? Injuries have taken their toll but the main reason is the distraction surrounding the team with the turmoil between the WRU and the four regions. The players are immune to it but only to a certain degree. At some point it becomes too much.
1. Ireland: Why will Ireland win this year’s Six Nations? Two words: Brian O’Driscoll. The legend is entering his final Six Nations tournament. It’s been a tournament in which he has excelled. One of the best things about O’Driscoll is his will to win. We think that is what will drive his team to success. It also helps that Irish players are playing some fantastic rugby at the moment with their clubs. As we saw against New Zealand they can play with anyone. Expect them to use the confidence gained from that match to have a fantastic tournament.