It’s that time of year again, where European rugby shows the best it has to offer. With fans being allowed back for the first time in two years and to what might be the most tightly contested tournament ever. All six nations return to rugby’s greatest championship fired up, so who are the players to watch out for and which nation will be victorious?
England – 4th
Star Man: Marcus Smith (Fly-half)
One to Watch: Freddie Steward (Fullback)
This England squad is a very different one from the one that attended last year’s Six Nations, especially the backs. Some of the old guard still remain, Ben Youngs and Henry Slade will still most likely start but most of the backs have never played in the Six Nations. This inexperience could cost them in the closely fought games. I do not think they will win this tournament, but get ready for bits of magic from some of the new backs. Despite losing 20-17 away at Scotland last weekend, they can build momentum from the next three games and then possibly leave a showdown in Paris might be on cards. Despite not being one of my favourites for this tournament, they are my favourites for the 2023 tournament and could go one better and win the 2023 World Cup.
France – 1st
Star Man: Antoine Dupont (Scrum-half)
One to Watch: Damian Penaud (Wing)
It seems now that France have been the best side in Europe for the past two years now and yet they still haven’t won the Six Nations since 2010. Surely this time they can finally win it, and in fact I think they will. A grand slam is going to be difficult and I think they will slip up away to either Wales or Scotland and will have to fight for the tournament against England on the final day. My prediction is that France will win down to bonus points. They can score tries from anywhere and having the current World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year, Antoine Dupont, is just the cherry on top. Therefore, France are my favourites for Six Nations 2022.
Ireland – 2nd
Star Man: Johnny Sexton (Fly-half)
One to Watch: Caelan Doris (Back row)
Possibly the most difficult team to predict from all six teams. More than any other team, Ireland rely on their system. Other teams in the Six Nations can mould and adapt easier in-game making Ireland predictable. This method has been successful recently though, defeating the All Blacks in the Autumn. Ireland’s attack may look boring and uninspirational but it is very effective. With Andy Farrell, a defensive coach, as head coach they have adopted an attack which is the most tiring and annoying attack to defend. It relies on relentless energy and power eventually grinding down their opposition. Although it has been effective I think the lack of spark in this team is what will cost them points. They will be a difficult team to beat but I think relying on a 36 year old Johnny Sexton is risky, and will lead to a loss to France, but they still have a good chance for the Triple Crown and with a bit of luck on the final day, possibly the championship.
Italy – 6th
Star Man: Michele Lamaro (Back row)
One to Watch: Paolo Garbisi (Fly-half)
Italy have not won a match in the Six Nations since 2015. Recently rugby supporters have asked if Italy still deserves to be in the tournament. However, I believe that this current Italian squad is the best we’ve seen in over a decade. Plus with the squad being so young, they can only get better. The grassroots of Italian rugby have transformed over recent years leading to this new crop of exciting young players coming into the national team and hoping to break their losing streak. Despite all the encouraging signs, this tournament is possibly one year too soon for this Italian team to break their losing streak. They will be an exciting and fun team to watch but still not quite good enough.
Scotland – 3rd
Star Man: Stuart Hogg (Fullback)
One to Watch: Rufus Mclean (Wing)
Scotland have been a very exciting attacking team to watch for years but they still make silly mistakes that cost them games that they should win. We’ve seen over the past few tournaments that they have the capability to beat any team in the tournament so can they be victorious for the first time since 1999? Winning against England was the perfect start and much needed if they want to challenge for the title this year but there are still tough tests ahead. The key men of this squad are all reaching 30 or above (Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, Hamish Watson, Ali Price and Chris Harris) so this may be their last chance but I think they might lose the title on the final day.
Wales – 5th
Star Man: Tomos Williams (Scrum-half)
One to Watch: Taine Basham (Back row)
Riddled with injuries to the likes of Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, Ken Owens, Talupae Faletau and George North it is unlikely that the reigning champions can win it back to back. Despite saying all that, they were seen as 5th favourites last year and went on to shock everyone to win so if they can take advantage of their home matches (Scotland, France and Italy) then they could do it again. There is plenty of young talent in this squad and with what might be the best back three in the tournament there are a lot of tries to be had also. The biggest worry is the centres. If they can get a creative pair working together well in the midfield then Wales might fight to the final weekend. Sadly, I do not think they will win away matches, having already lost at Dublin last weekend, so Wales might have to fight for 3rd on the final day at the most.
It would be an incredible achievement if any of these teams can win the Grand Slam but with this tournament being so hotly contested I cannot see it happening. I am certain the winners will be decided during the final round of matches on the 19th of March. It will probably go down to the last game as France take on England. So my advice is, book time off for that night because it is going to be a cracker!