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6 Nations 2015 Preview

So here we are just a few days away from the grand old tournament. With all the new tournaments with their marketing men decided names, it is good to get back to a “does what it says on the tin” tournament.

Anyway will Gatball prevail? Was November another false dawn for Scotland? Do England have 15 fit players? Are Ireland really better without BOD? Will France be a team or group of individuals? Can Italy win a game?

I probably won’t answer any of that but here is my 6 Nations preview.

This like the world cup gets all there writers be they professional or amateur trying their hand at a preview or predictions piece. You can get the professional ones at any main newspaper or rugby site but here are some links to the blogging communities views.

uPredict, Anything RugbyEggchasersguidetothegalaxy and Hit or Miss.

How did it all end last year?

Pos Team W L F A PD Pts
1 Ireland 4 1 132 49 83 8
2 England 4 1 138 65 73 8
3 Wales 3 2 122 79 43 6
4 France 3 2 101 100 1 6
5 Scotland 1 4 47 138 -91 2
6 Italy 0 5 63 172 -109 0

Ireland won last year but it was only on points difference due to having the most miserly defence. The surprising thing is that they did it in a “hard” year, by that I mean they had to play away to England and France only getting to host Wales out of the top 4 teams. It’s one of the quarks of the 6 Nations that you only play each other team once. This means you have an uneven number of home and away games meaning years alternate between being harder and easier. So when looking at the tournament it’s not only about the teams form but also the schedule that needs to be taken into account.

Ireland

Italy v Ireland
Ireland v France
Ireland v England
Wales v Ireland
Scotland v Ireland

After winning the 6 Nations last year Ireland had a low-key tour to Argentina where they won both games. They backed that up by having the most successful block of games during the November international window. Beating both South Africa and Australia Ireland was a big wakeup call to the rugby world as many pundits suddenly listed Ireland as potential world cup winners. Those wins were once again built on a suffocating defence and brilliant game management but the half backs.

There was great fanfare for the All Blacks near perfect and then perfect seasons in 2012 and 2013. That Ireland only lost once last year has gone relatively unnoticed. That it came early in the year against England at Twickenham is probably why.

The Irish start with injury worries, especially at fly half where Sexton will be missing initially due to concussion. However a relatively easy start against Italy should mean they aren’t too impacted. After that it’s a matter of what French side turns up and whilst you can’t write off England the crunch match looks to be away to Wales in week 4.

Prediction: 1st

England

Wales v England
England v Italy
Ireland v England
England v Scotland
England v France

Last season England picked a settled side through the 6 Nations seeing an improvement in performances and results. That has since fallen apart due to injuries, scheduling and indecision. For my views on Lancaster’s selection for this tournament click here. The summer tour saw three losses to New Zealand followed by further losses to New Zealand and a tired South Africa in November. There was a moral boosting win over an Australian team in turmoil off the pitch.

For England this is a hard year, even though they have 3 homes games they have to travel to Ireland and Wales. Added into that there is a long list of injuries with more happening all the time. For England it’s all about the first game away to Wales who are group stage world cup opponents. It’s interesting that all the talk is about the game that England lost two years ago in Cardiff and not the win from last year in London. With all the change in the England squad I think it will be a step too far and the question is how they recover for the rest of the campaign.

Prediction: 3rd

Wales

Wales v England
Scotland v Wales
France v Wales
Wales v Ireland
Italy v Wales

Wales followed up a disappointing 6 Nations with a tour to South Africa where they lost both games. November saw losses to Australia and New Zealand. But it all ended with a HISTORIC WIN over South Africa. Yes it needs the caps as it was the first win over a southern hemisphere nation in something like a millennium. It’s the only result that really matters as the others are just like previous years and Wales have always turned up ready for the 6 Nations.

The big question is are Wales focused on these games? Do they really care? They sound like stupid questions. However the November Internationals were sacrificed for the World Cup. The training was all about the games later this year and not those that were going to be played immediately. It was all fitness and conditioning before the All Blacks game with only 1 rugby session. How much training is being sacrificed for the World Cup now?

Prediction: 2nd

France

France v Scotland
Ireland v France
France v Wales
Italy v France
England v France

France went over to Australia after a very average 6 Nations last year. Losing all three test matches down under was not a good sign but also not surprising. November started out much more brightly with a number of fresh faces and wins over Fiji and Australia. Then things in typical French fashion imploded a little as the star of the first two games got sent home for disciplinary reasons and they lost to Argentina. Yes it’s a cliché but what team will turn up on the day? The one that wins against Australia or loses to Argentina?

Whilst France has won the 6 Nations the most times they last won it in 2010 which happened to be a grand slam. I can’t see this being the year they return to glory.

Prediction: 4th

Scotland

France v Scotland
Scotland v Wales
Scotland v Italy
England v Scotland
Scotland v Ireland

Scotland changed coaches after a disappointing 6 Nations last year and went on the most ravelled summer tour. They took two large squads partly due to the international window and release of players but more so that Vern Cotter could see all the players up close. They played the USA, Canada, Argentina and South Africa only losing the last one. November was very encouraging with an other win over Argentina, a good performance against the All Blacks and comfortably beating Tonga.

Is this a false dawn through? They didn’t play either Australia or South Africa and the All Blacks side was a second string side. There is definitely a feel good factor with improved performances but how will that hold up against stronger opposition? I think they will be more competitive and there will be a clear gap back to Italy but I’m not convinced they will upset the top 4.

Quite irrelevant but Scotland have never won the 6 Nations but they did win the last 5 Nations in 1999.

Prediction: 5th

Italy

Italy v Ireland
England v Italy
Scotland v Italy
Italy v France
Italy v Wales

After losing all their 6 Nations games last year, Italy went on a tour of the pacific where the lost to Fiji, Samoa and Japan. Things started brighter in the Autumn with a win over Samoa. However it came out that Samoa where dealing with major off-field issues and losses to Argentina and South Africa followed.

It always seems like one step forward two steps back with Italy. Whilst they are probably due one of those steps forward after none last year Italian rugby doesn’t look like it’s progressing with both professional teams bottom of the Pro12.

Prediction: 6th

Please join my 6 Nations prediction league on SuperBru.

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