Six Nations 2018 Preview

Next weekend will be the start of the 6 Nations. Five and a half weeks where the best teams in Europe compete against each other. One year away from the World Cup, will some teams look at this as an opportunity to see what depth they have in their respective squads, and give some players on the fringes of the first team a chance to see if they can cope with international rugby? This article looks at the respective sides and how I feel they will do this season, and players to look out for in this upcoming tournament who I am looking forward to seeing play.

Wales

A tough start at home against a resurgent Scotland side, and then after that 2 very tough away games against England and Ireland respectively. Could Wales be 3 games into a tournament still looking for their first win? Not something I want to think too long about. Warren Gatland has a number of injuries to deal with (so have their competition) within his selectional decisions. Missing Taulupe Faletau, Sam Warburton, Dan Biggar, Jonathan Davies and Rhys Webb takes a huge amount of talent plus experience from their ranks, so going to be interesting to see how they do in this year’s competition. Will they continue with the more expansive game that we saw in its infancy in the Autumn even if results start to go against them? Who starts in the back three positions? Who replaces Dan Biggar? Big questions to be answered.

Player to watch.

Rhys Patchell – The player is in great form and demonstrates a lot of the footballing ability Gatland is trying to develop into the Welsh game. Will he start at 10 or 15? Or as has been the case for the majority of his international career when he has made the squad to date, be in his tracksuit carrying a tackle bag before a game as a non-playing reserve? If given a start and I fully expect him to play against Scotland, Patchell has the ability to light up the 6 Nations.

Picture Credit: http://www.wru.co.uk

Welsh Fixtures 

3/2 Scotland (H), 10/2 England (A), 24/2 Ireland (A), 11/3 Italy (A), 17/3 France (H)

Scotland

Gregor Townsend and his charges had a very strong Autumn, and come into this tournament with confidence high. With players such as Ali Price, Finn Russell, Huw Jones and Stuart Hogg they have a backline to fear. The back row with players such as skipper for this tournament, John Barclay and Hamish Watson will cause disruption at rucks, but they do have a number of injuries in the front five, with players such as WP Nel, Alasdair Dickinson, Allan Dell and Zander Fagerson missing, so do they have the players to come in and be competitive enough in that very important area? If so, Scotland will be a major challenge for all in this tournament.

Player to watch.

Huw Jones – Burst onto the international scene in 2016 and last year in the 6 Nations showed up very well against Ireland and France. Must have been in the discussions for the British and Irish Lions touring squad but narrowly missed out. Can he show his try-scoring prowess yet again this year? In 11 internationals to date, he has scored 7 tries which is some strike rate. A big talent.

Scottish Fixtures

3/2 Wales (A), 11/2 France (H), 24/2 England (H), 10/3 Ireland (A), 17/3 Italy (A)

France

They have a new coaching set-up led by Jacques Brunel, so will we see a new improved French side? Quite simply, who knows! There is talent in their ranks but is there enough of this talent? Players such as Kevin Gourdon, Baptiste Serin, Virimi Vakatawa and Teddy Thomas will give us great moments to enjoy as fans but can they find a fifteen that can sustain a strong performance for eighty minutes in each match? Time will tell.

Player to watch.

Remi Lamerat – A big strong bustling centre who also has an excellent offloading game. The Clermont player when given the opportunity with front foot ball is a player to watch.

Picture Credit: http://www.zimbio.com

French Fixtures

3/2 Ireland (H), 11/2 Scotland (A), 23/2 Italy (H), 10/3 England (H), 17/3 Wales (A)

Ireland

A squad packed with talent and after an Autumn Series where they convincingly defeated South Africa, Joe Schmidt and his team have expectations placed on their shoulders, can they deal with this and win this year’s tournament? There is no doubting the ability on this side, but can they go to Paris in the opening game and get a win? Can they defeat England at Twickenham? If they are to win this tournament then they will need to accomplish this. Young talent such as Jordan Larmour, Jacob Stockdale, Joey Carbery mixed with established players such as Johnny Sexton, Tadhg Furlong, Peter O’Mahony, Robbie Henshaw and Conor Murray makes this group so exciting.

Player to watch.

Jordan Stockdale – So much exciting talent but just to pick one I am going for the young Ulsterman winger. Only 21 years of age, six foot three and weighing in just over sixteen stone. Stockdale has pace and ability in abundance, a massive talent ready to take centre stage in this tournament.

Irish Fixtures

3/2 France (A), 10/2 Italy (H), 24/2 Wales (H), 10/3 Scotland (H), 17/3 England (A)

Italy

Conor O’Shea will be looking for progression in his group of players. The squad has 13 players out of a 31 man squad named who could make their debuts in the tournament. It promises to be another tough campaign for the Azzurri, but hopefully, over the course of the tournament some players will flourish and give the fans something to cheer about.

Player to watch.

Jayden Hayward – The Benetton Treviso fullback now qualifies to play for Italy. Hayward has impressed me every time I have seen him play in the Pro 14 League and I expect him to carry his rugby abilities into international rugby. Evasive runner, solid in defence and a good goal kicker.

Italian Fixtures

4/2 England (H), 10/2 Ireland (A), 23/2 France (A), 11/3 Wales (A), 17/3 Scotland (H)

England

Have injuries to deal with, but have so much strength in depth which has been built up over recent seasons. Anthony Watson, Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs, Mako Vunipola, Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes just to name a few. Where Scotland have some doubts over their strength in the front five no such concerns for England. In my view I see them taking the Championship and a great final game against Ireland beckons for us rugby fans.

Player to watch.

Sam Underhill – England for a few seasons now have been looking for an out and out 7, and now they have one. Excellent in defence and aggressive at the breakdown. A player who makes good decisions, a talented footballer.

English Fixtures

4/2 Italy (A), 10/2 Wales (H), 24/2 Scotland (A), 10/3 France (A), 17/3 Ireland (H)

Feature Picture Credit: http://www.wikipedia.org

It promises to be a great tournament and one I am very much looking forward to. In terms of Wales, I see 3 victories, against Scotland, Italy and France but just don’t see them getting victories away to England and Ireland, but fingers crossed I am wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

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