Finally we have the opportunity to put the Rugby World Cup behind us as we return to the oldest international rugby tournament. It’s a time of year that rugby fans in Europe look forward to with the great away trips as well home games if you’re lucky enough to be able to get tickets. Here are my predictions for the 1st round of games.
First here is a link to my tournament preview.
France v Italy
All the pundits are saying that this year is the hardest in memory to predict what is going to happen. We have new coaches and turn over of players for both France and England. Scotland are performing at a higher level than they have for many years. Ireland and Wales are still there or there about. Which makes this fixture the anomaly. There is one thing that pundits are agreeing on and that is that Italy will come last. If rumours are to be believed Connor O’Shea will be the coach of Italy at this time next year and so it’s refreshing to see Brunel bringing in some fresh faces. He won’t get to reap the reward but it will help the next coach know who is and isn’t up to International standard.
We are led to believe that we will see a more free flowing attacking style of rugby from France under new coach Guy Novès. This will be a refreshing change from the bash that we have been seeing recently. It will take time to bed in but they should have too much class at home for Italy.
France by 15
Scotland v England
As you can see from the voting below this is a very tight game to call. Scotland came very close to making the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup. They have also been getting plaudits for their style of play as much as the results. For sometime now we have seen better performances but not the results so this was something that was growing and not a flash in the pan. My only reservation is that we have seen good performances and results in the autumn before only for Scotland to have a disappointing 6 Nations.
There has been plenty written about England and their poor Rugby World Cup. Equally Eddie Jones has been getting plenty of column inches as everybody tries to explain who he is an dhow England will play. The reality is that the starting 15 at least is going to be very similar to those picked by Lancaster. Also as there have been very few training sessions (about 10) for Eddie to work with his side we are going to see a limited game plan. The priority this weekend is the win with a committed performance, expecting anything more than that is wishful thinking. Often a new coach gets a better performance from players as they try to impress and so I’m counting on that getting England over the line with a narrow win.
England by 3
Perhaps what I really need is a psychic Scottie dog instead of all these attempts at rational thought or crowd sourcing an answer.
Ireland v Wales
Ireland are the defending champions are going for their third title in a row. That is something that has never happened before. But I don’t think it’s the breaking a record that has people suggesting that they are going to come up short. Losing O’Connell’s leadership and injuries to key players was show to be a big issue at the Rugby World Cup and there is a feeling it’s happening again.
Wales are the most settled squad and so that leads us to the Gatland ball and no plan B debate all over again. There is lots of talk that the last day of the 6 Nations last year and the expansive rugby at the Rugby World Cup showed the way forward. Maybe we will see a more expansive game from Wales but I think it will be a slight change of emphasis at most not ripping up the game plan. Gatland Ball has been very successful in the 6 Nations and I can see it happening again. My friend has said that it Wales win this game they’ll go onto the Grand Slam but if not end up in 3rd. I don’t think it’s that decisive and they can come back from a loss here.
Wales by 5
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