WE’VE LOVED the first two rounds of the Six Nations, one of the most anticipated events of rugby’s season, and with fans looking to snap up tickets for the remaining rounds of the Six Nations matches, we’ve decided to take a deeper look at the teams taking part.
Following last year’s crushing final game defeat against Wales which cost them the championship, England will be certainly in it to win it this year. Their performances in the autumn Internationals were stronger than their counterparts across the border, which should give them an edge. Their pack remains strong but these days the backs provide one of England’s weaker elements. They will need to invest more in their attacking if they want to succeed this year.
Last year saw France suffer one of its weakest performances in recent years, coming in last place following losses against Wales, England and Italy and half-hearted performances against Scotland and Ireland. They came into the tournament looking for redemption, after winning just two Test matches in 2013, despite having a number of injuries, including captain Thierry Dusautoir. After achieving a wins over England and Italy in Paris, could the last game of the tournament, France v Ireland, be a championship decider?
Ireland are always a strong contender for the championship, but have been unlucky over the past two years, placing a disappointing and unexpected fifth in last year’s tournament and leading to the replacement of Declan Kidney with new coach Joe Schmidt. The team put in a strong performance against New Zealand in the autumn, despite being on the losing side on the final whistle, and will now be looking to re-live the glory days of their 2009 Grand Slam in Brian O’Driscoll’s last season. It’s always a relief to Ireland to have Jonathan Sexton and Paul O’Connell fighting fit, and the pair have already put in some eye-catching performances this year.
Unfortunately for Italy, things didn’t get off to a rosy start thanks to a string of injuries to key players such as Andrea Masi and Gonzalo Canale, and two difficult away Tests saw them come second best to Wales and France in the opening two rounds. However, despite picking some inexperienced backs, 20-year-old centre Michele Campagnaro scored two tries and was named Man of the Match against Wales, and it’s possible that Italy will surprise us as they have done in the past.
Scotland finished an impressive third last year, but look unlikely to achieve that spot this season having scored just six points in the first two rounds. The team is known for their inconsistency, and their failure to score tries against Ireland – a familiar Scottish problem – meant they were unable to capitalise on the possession and territory they enjoyed. Having dropped their captain Kelly Brown for the Calcutta Cup tie, they sunk to a 20-0 loss at Murrayfield. Coach Scott Johnson seems to be undecided on his starting XV, but on a positive note, he has some great talents to choose from in Stuart Hogg, Matt Scott and David Denton.
Wales will be looking to secure a hat-trick of victories this year, but poor performances during the autumn series and a crushing 26-3 loss to Ireland in round two may have highlighted weaknesses in the team, which formed the majority of last year’s series winning Lions squad. But with Warren Gatland back in charge, and the inclusion of key players such as Jamie Roberts and captain Sam Warburton, it’s a fool who writes off the men in red before the fat lady has sung.
It’s never easy to predict the outcome of the Six Nations, and fans with their tickets in hand will be desperately hoping for victories for their respective teams. Tickets for the Six Nations are still available and can be found on http://www.stubhub.co.uk/six-nations-rugby-tickets