6 Nations 2016 Preview

Back to the best rugby tournament in the world as the marketing men have labeled it. It is a great tournament as the rivalries go back over a century. It’s also the start of the healing process for the European sides after a Rugby World Cup where none of the sides made the semifinals. All that though will now be forgotten and here is my tournament preview.

Added into the normal intrigue of the tournament will be the start of the World Cup cycle and the refreshing of some teams. We also have new coaches for England and France so what playing styles will we see? Have the teams learned from the Rugby World Cup and that wonderful final day of the 6 Nations last year? These are all things we will learn over the next few weeks as long as the weather allows it.

How did it all end last year?

Pos Team W L F A PD Pts
1 Ireland 4 1 119 56 63 8
2 England 4 1 157 100 57 8
3 Wales 4 1 146 93 53 8
4 France 2 3 103 101 2 4
5 Italy 1 4 62 182 -120 2
6 Scotland 0 5 73 128 -55 0

Again Ireland won the championship on points difference and again it was on the back of a miserly defence having scored the least points of the top three teams. Wales and then England posted big scores on the last day to just fall short. Scotland failed to build on their good November showing in 2014 losing all their games. They finished behind Italy who score less points and let in more but won the important clash in Scotland. France again disappointed and finished in the bottom half of the table.

A quick reminder that last year was an “easy” schedule one for Ireland and so we will see if they can back that up with the order schedule they have this year. I’ll include all the fixtures so we can see which teams are on the “easy” or “hard” cycle of games.

Ireland

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

After winning the 6 Nations last year Ireland reached an historic second in the World Rankings. Going into the Rugby World Cup many of us expected great things of the men in green. I thought that a semifinal appearance would constitute a par performance and that the final was in reach. In the end we saw then bow out in the quarterfinals and learnt that whilst the Irish first choice squad is a match for anyone, there are key leaders that they can’t do without.

Heading into the tournament this year they are again coming in with injury worries but also concerns about the form of the Irish provinces. They are all at the right end of the Pro12 but for the first time in ages none of them progressed in the top-tier European competition. With their hardest three games up first there is no room to grow into this tournament or wait for players to return.

Prediction: 3rd

England

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

It’s been well documented that England are the first hosting nation not to make it out of the pool stages of a Rugby World Cup. There are some questions about previous joint hosts but putting those to one side it was a disastrous tournament for England. Since then there has been a coaching clear out and Eddie Jones made the maximum number of changes to the squad he was allowed to. There is the outstanding question of if he wanted to make even more?

Eddie Jones has been playing down England’s chances pointing out that if you take all the results since 2003 England rank 4th. Maybe so but England have also finished 2nd in the last four years and only been 2nd on points difference in the last three. The quote “Lies, damned lies, and statistics” comes to mind. The first game will be crucial, as Eddie will only have had ten training sessions to get his new ideas across to the squad. We should expect a limited game plan concentrating on defence to provide a foundation to grow from.

Prediction: 2nd

Wales

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

Wales had a good World Cup but stumbled to their Achilles heal of not being able to defeat southern hemisphere opposition. There was the mitigation factor of having a very long injury list. There were times when you wondered if they would be able to field a back division at all.

They head into this tournament with one of the most stable squads. However the this is a “hard” draw year for Wales as they have to travel away to both Ireland and England. Perhaps they have the best game up first with Ireland’s injury list but they would also what to be facing England earlier if they could have picked the perfect schedule. History is also on the Welsh side as they have won Grand Slams in the two previous 6 Nations after a Rugby World Cup.

Prediction: 1st

France

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

If you look at where France got to you would say that they had a par to good Rugby World Cup considering that they lost to the eventual champions. But the manner of that defeat was humiliating. We already knew that there was going to be a coaching change but we weren’t prepared for the squad clear out that came along with it.

France have the easiest of possible started with Italy at home. With them also hosting Ireland and England this is an “easy” year from a scheduling point of view. So all the stars are aligned for them to go well. Unfortunately they haven’t gone well for some years now and with the resurgence of Scotland it could be a long tournament for them.

Prediction: 5th

Italy

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

Italy were disappointing at the Rugby World Cup. From a results point of view you could argue that it was a par performance but they never threatened to do any better. All the rumours are that O’Shea will be the coach next year so it’s a really strange situation. We are at the start of a Rugby World Cup cycle but the coach is about to leave. To be fair to him he has started the cycle of change but Italy are ever reliant on a couple of waging stars.

The only fixture that they normally have a real hope in doing well in is against Scotland and at least they have that at home. The problem is that Scotland have upped their game and with two difficult fixtures before then could have a lot of negative momentum. Personally I can’t see them avoiding the wooden spoon.

Prediction: 6th

Scotland

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

Scotland had a wonderful Rugby World Cup, not only did the navigate a potentially tricky pool very well but they also pushed Australia all the way. I’m not going to go over old ground except to say it was heart breaking how they lost and we have to see what psychological impact that has.

Scotland are in a “hard” schedule year with trips away to Ireland and Wales as well as Italy. Added to that is an historical trend of going well in November and then disappointing in the 6 Nations. With all this in mind the first game at home against England is massive for them, win that and anything is possible. Lose and all sorts of doubts could creep in and they could be heading to Italy having to save their tournament.

Prediction: 4th

Maybe we should just ignore all these attempts to predict what’s going to happen and just trust in the tea-leaves.

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5 thoughts on “6 Nations 2016 Preview

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      1. The record against the Northern Hemisphere team’s is pretty good and I don’t think they’ll be dreadful but I think they’ll get penalised at scrums a lot & England and Ireland should be able to capitalise on that

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