As the 2019 6 Nations tournament approaches, we take a look at the teams, their key match in the tournament and the player to watch.
Ask any European rugby purist what their favourite rugby tournament is and it is more than likely they will respond with the Six Nations. This year, however, the rebranded tournament has some added company in the form of Japan’s first Rugby World Cup in September.
In a World Cup year, teams can face a dilemma; stick to what they know in pursuit of Six Nations glory, or try some new combinations with one eye on lifting the Web Ellis Trophy. If there is one thing for certain though, it is that no team in the Six Nations will go down without a fight.
Teams face a dilemma; stick to what they know in pursuit of Six Nations glory, or try some new combinations with one eye on lifting the Web Ellis Trophy
Ahead of the tournament kicking off this weekend, we are running through every team to analyse their prospects and pick out some key names and matches to look out for in this most special of tournaments.
Hopes: Two years ago England looked like the European team most likely to succeed in Japan this year. However, fast forward 12 months and the team have gone through turbulent times with inconsistent results and the loss of a number of Eddie Jones’ backroom staff. Nonetheless, a strong showing against the All Blacks in November proved that there is still much to come from this England side.
Key Match: Wales v England, Round 3. Always a fiery atmosphere, England have some difficult away fixtures to contend with this year. Wales in round 3 will be pivotal and depending how their first outing goes against Ireland, could be the make or break match for England.
One to Watch: Jack Nowell. After finally returning from injury a few weeks ago, much of the talk has been about the potential of Nowell being used as a ‘third flanker’. Sure, the Exeter winger has an excellent level of physicality but where he really will want to be utilised is in attack. With Ford and Farrell inside, it is an exciting time to be an English outside back.
Rugbystore Prediction/ England: 2nd overall
Hopes: The old cliché is that you can never predict which France will show up to the Six Nations. In the Autumn Internationals they went from being within seconds of beating South Africa to losing to Fiji in the same month, leaving many to ponder their chances of success. Three away matches in this year’s edition will make success tough for Les Blues.
Key Match: France v Scotland, Round 3. Another game from this round and one that is always hotly contested. To avoid a wooden spoon clash with Italy in the final week, France desperately need to win their two home games. A confident Scottish side will make that tricky.
One to Watch: Romain Ntamack. Those that have followed Toulouse this season will know all about the skills of the uncapped 19 year old. Used at both fly-half and centre, the former French U20 captain offers an attacking spark that France so desperately need to unleash their high quality backline. If given the opportunity, he may become the long term solution at 10.
Rugbystore Prediction/ France: 5th overall
Hopes: The defending champions, this tournament is Ireland’s to lose. Following a successful autumn which included ‘that’ win against the All Blacks, there will be pressure on Ireland to perform in Joe Schmidt’s final Six Nations. With three home games Ireland should have the advantage but as we say every year, anything could happen.
There will be pressure on Ireland to perform in Joe Schmidt’s final Six Nations
Key Match: Ireland v England, Round 1. The clash of the tournament, let alone the round, this game will go a long way to deciding who is organising the trophy parade come March 16th. Ireland have never lost at home in the Six Nations under Joe Schmidt and that is a record they would certainly like to maintain.
One to Watch: Gary Ringrose. For a couple of years now, Ringrose has been discussed as the up and coming replacement for Brian O’Driscoll, yet has never completely cemented his position in Ireland’s starting backline. With his physicality improving year-on-year, the all-rounder offers a dynamic attacking threat in the midfield.
Rugbystore Prediction/ Ireland: 1st overall
Hopes: Long the whipping boys in the Six Nations, 2019 does not offer much more hope. Sure, Benneton may now be flying in the Pro14 but we are yet to see that quality develop in an international setting. It could be another long season for the Italians…
Key Match: Italy v Scotland, Round 1. Ask any Scottish fan about their memories of this game 12 years ago and do not be surprised if they break out in a cold sweat. That day, the Italians put Scotland to the sword in the first 10 minutes and never looked back, winning 17-37. Italy will be hoping for a similar result this time round.
One to Watch: Sergio Parisse. Expected to be his last Six Nations, the talismanic Italian captain will once again lead from the front, doing all in his power to push his side to victory. Will he be the difference?
Rugbystore Prediction/ Italy: 6th overall
Hopes: Ever the optimist post-Autumn Internationals, once again this Scottish side have been plagued by injuries. This time, however, there appears to be a level of depth that means Scotland may be able to ride the wave and come off the other side relatively unscathed. Two big away games versus England and France will make this campaign tricky, nonetheless.
Key Match: Scotland v Ireland, Round 2. If both teams take the full points on offer in the first round, this match could be important in deciding the makeup of the final standings. Scotland will need the roar of Murrayfield to return once again to have any hope of halting the impressive Irish.
One to Watch: Darcy Graham. In superb form for Edinburgh of late, it seems a very real possibility that he will be pushing the longstanding duo of Tommy Seymour and Sean Maitland for a starting berth on the wing. A Shane Williams-style player with a surprising level of physicality, he will inject some magic into the Scotland backline.
Rugbystore Prediction/ Scotland: 3rd overall
Hopes: The reign of Warren Gatland may finally be coming to an end but do not expect him to exit quietly. Featuring a strong mix of youth and experience, Wales have the potential to cause an upset this season and push the favourites for the title.
(in 2018)… it took a moment of magic from Ronan O’Gara to hand Ireland the win in the dying minutes
Key Match: Wales v Ireland, Round 5. Ten years ago, this fixture resulted in Ireland’s first Grand Slam since the tournament increased from five teams to six. As one of the classic matches of the championship, it took a moment of magic from Ronan O’Gara to hand Ireland the win in the dying minutes. Could this matchup be another title decider come March?
One to Watch: Thomas Young. A star for years with Wasps in the Gallagher Premiership, Young’s decision to base himself in England has limited his international opportunities to date. With Wales suffering from injuries in the back row, the addition of Young allows another option who is confident over the ball while still putting in an impressive attacking shift.
Rugbystore Prediction/ Wales: 4th overall
About the author
Hailing from the birthplace of rugby 7’s, Melrosian Ruairidh Campbell spent the bulk of his playing career out on the wing. These days Ruairidh is more likely to be found whistle in hand, red card in sock, in the heat of the action as a busy referee on the Scottish circuit.
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