2015 Six Nations Preview
Its that time of year again and the Six Nations Championship kicks off tonight when Wales take on the English in Cardiff. This is an extra special year in 2015. With the Rugby World Cup in the Autumn, the results in the next month will be a pretty good indicator on how the Northern Hemisphere elite will fare in September.
As usual I’ll go through my final standings in reverse order, with a player who I think has the potential to make a big impact as an up and coming young star who is one to watch. Read on for my Six Nations 2015 Preview.
6th – Italy
Italy are still improving as a rugby nation but unfortunately they will be left with the Wooden Spoon again this season. Their Pro 12 club sides have been performing poorly and this will transfer to the international stage. If they could clone their Talisman Sergio Parisse they would be in with a shout of winning more than one game, however he cannot be everywhere and struggles to hold his team together in the final quarter of the game.
Player to watch: Josh Furno.
The Newcastle Falcons lock has proved he can mix it in the Guinness Premiership and is fast becoming the natural successor to captain the Azurri once Parisse hangs up his boots. An accomplished line out operator and solid carries in the loose. He should be in the thick of Italy’s endeavours throughout the tournament.
5th – Scotland
Verne Cotter’s Scotland are hoping to make an impact in this years competition following a solid Autumn international series where they gained two wins over Argentina and Tonga, and running the All Blacks close. However I don’t think they have the firepower to beat a top side in a competition environment. I expect them to beat Italy as they are at home, but will lose the rest. Sorry Scottish fans!
Player to watch: Alex Dunbar
Dunbar is what the Scots have been missing. A no nonsense, direct running centre who will create space around him and he will give Tommy Seymour and Tim Visser the space to score some tries.
4th – France
The French are no longer the formidable side they once were, they are not feared by the home nations and it often looks as if they aren’t bothered. That said, on their day their backline can rip any side to shreds. Winger Teddy Thomas can be deadly, and Wesley Fofana is one of the most gifted footballers of the current generation of international centres.
Player to Watch: Camille Lopez
The Clermont Auvergne number 10 has a steady boot, manages a game well and always seems to get his backline moving forward. However this has been against poor international sides and in the French top 14 for his club. The jury is still out on wether he will flake on the big stage and lose his cool, or will manage the French to success. My money in true French tradition, is on the former.
3rd – Wales
On paper Wales do not seem to have many injury worries so will have a good and near full strength side when England rock up to the Millenium stadium on Friday. However the decision to not select Adam Jones in their squad means that they will have inexperience up front and will be exposed by a very experienced English pack. The decision by England to deny Wales the opportunity to close the Millenium Stadium roof suggests that England will look to beat the Welsh up front. As always the Welsh backline looks massive – my only concern is their lack of variety, will they be easily sussed and nullified?
Player to watch: Rhys Webb
The Ospreys number 9 has managed to squeeze British Lion Mike Phillips out of the Wales starting lineup which is no mean feat. His ability to challenge sides at the breakdown and make breaks out of nothing has given him the edge. He has the capabilities to spark a top Welsh performance. Lets hope its not in week 1!
2nd – Ireland
The Irish’s performances in the Autumn internationals will have turned many heads and made the world realise that there is life after Brian. With the returning Sean O’Brien in the back row and Paul O’Connell calling the shots, Ireland will continue to be difficult to break down and beat. I expect them to beat England in Dublin but will lose out on points difference.
Player to watch: Jonny Sexton
Not an up and coming player but the man the Irish’s Six Nations and World Cup hopes rely on, with No Brian O’Driscoll the more Junior players look to Sexton to lead the game from 10 and he has the experience to do that. He misses the first weekend due to the enforced ‘step-down’ period from concussion, but expect him to be firing on all cylinders by the end of the tournament
1st – England
Yes it looks kinda biased. But England will win the the 2015 Six Nations but without the ever elusive Grand Slam. They will top the group purely on the fact that they have Scotland and Italy at home. Expect the young looking backline to stick to Stuart Lancaster’s forward orientated game plan in the first half of Fridays encounter, but will cut loose in the second half and let the talented players they have run the show. George Ford is turning into the real deal and his partnership with Ben Youngs will be key to England’s success this year.
Player to watch: Jonny May
Jonny May has proved this year that he can cut it at International level, he has got the pace and ability to be in the right place at the right time. My bet for championship top try scorer.
What are your predictions? Are we too biased by choosing an injury raven England side or will their home games give them the points difference they need? Follow us over at twitter.com/averagejoesblog for all the in-game analysis, comments and controversy! I’ll no doubt be back in September!