Its that time of year again fokes where we park the European Champions Cup, the Aviva Premiership and the Guinness Pro12 and we look to the RBS 6 Nations, the world’s best rugby tournament.
A new change has come into this tournament, the Bonus Point System. Teams can get a bonus point if a team looses within 7 points, they get a loosing bonus point. Or a team can get a bonus point for scoring 4 tries during the match. This will hopefully add a new exciting dimension to the tournament, but one suspects that teams might gain 4 try bonus points against the Italians.
What follows shall be a review of each of the international teams and a look to the matches in Murrayfield and Twickenham tomorrow and at the Stadio Olympico on Sunday.
The 6 International Competing Teams
Last years Grand Slam Champions, 2016 was a year to remember in English Rugby. They come into this tournament as favourite, with focus not so much on the players but on the coach Eddie “the Black Eye” Jones. England will be without the Vunipola brothers for the tournament, and George Kruis and Anthony Watson for the first part of the tournament. However, England will still come in very confident to lay down a marker against France in their opening game.
The French cockerils, or as Phil Steele called them turkeys, have been on a downward decline since loosing to the All Blacks in the World Cup in 2011. France will look to dominate in the forwards once more and they’ll really miss the talismatic inside centre that is Weseley Fofona. They’ll come into this Championship with the feeling they have nothing to loose, after just loosing by a converted try to the All Blacks last November
Once again, there is excitement for the Scots with recent excellent performances from Glasgow and Edinburgh in their respective European competitions. Scotland have to generate quick ball in order to deliver to one of the most exciting Scottish backlines I have seen for a long time. They’ll hope to clinical in this Championship by getting more than just ½ wins.
The Azzuri have yet to live up to the hype of being included in this tournament since joining the 5 Nations in 2000. However, with new coaches in Connor O’Shea and Mike Catt, the Italians will hopefully have a new attitude to the tournament. I also hope that some of the players will be able to match the quality of Sergio Parisse, as the 121 capped veteran will not be around for much longer you suspect.
The Irish come into the tournament also as favourites to win the Championship. They will look to blood new and younger players into the tournament with the old-work horses of Tonner, Heaslip and Kearney as veterans of the squad. Jonathon Sexton will be a big miss but Ireland have an abundance of Flyhalves, alsmost to rival the Welsh.
The land of the red dragon will want to improve on their performances from the Autumn Internationals last year. 7 new caps in the squad including the highly impressive Thomas Young, son of Wasps Coach Dai. Howely is the coach with the most amount of pressure on his soldiers, to coach Wales to turn the side into an attacking, clinical and powerful side, a tall order for him.
The games this weekend
Scotland vs Ireland, Murrayfield, Edinburgh, 2:25pm, Saturday 4th February 2017
Scotland have to start the tournament with a win against the Irish. However, looking at the lineup that Ireland have produced, The Irish will come to Murrayfield confident they can get the away win, just like they did to win the 2015 Championship. I predict Scotland to win by 3 points.
England vs France, Twickenham, London, 4:50pm, Saturday 4th February 2017
Le Crunch is always a battle worth watching in this tournament. However, given that France have been poor in recent Championships and the last time both sides played at Twickenham, the final score was 55-35 to England; it looks to be another win for England. I predict England to win by 10 points.
Italy vs Wales, Stadio Olympico, Rome, 2pm, Sunday 5th February 2017
Wales will look first and foremost for the win out in Rome. However, Wales have to mindful of a passionate home crowd that the Azzuri can call upon that inspires the national side. I predict Wales to win by 5 points.
Happy watching the rugby to everyone and make sure you tune into the next installment of the Brum Rugby Show on 9th February 2017 between 9-10pm