RBS Six Nations Preview 2013
With an interesting set of Autumn Internationals done and dusted all eyes turn to the Six Nations where the best of the Northern Hemisphere do battle on the rugby field. There is an added incentive to the home unions players as it is a British and Irish Lions year. Meaning there are places up for grabs in the squad to Australia this summer and the Six Nations is one of the last opportunities to catch the coaching teams eye. Here’s my six Nations final placing predictions, players to watch in the tournament and my Lions Picks.
Read on for our full RBS Six Nations Preview 2013.
6th – Scotland
Andy Robinson was dismissed following poor performances in the Autumn and the Scottish Rugby Union have brought in Scott Johnson to try and steady the ship. But unfortunately, much like the Scottish sides in the Heineken Cup and Pro 12 competitions this year, they will be outgunned in all areas of the park. Italy are improving year in and year out, and I think this will be the year that the Jocks are left behind. They don’t have enough quality to turn a game around and will finish with no wins.
Player to Watch: David Denton – Much is said about the prowess of Richie Gray, but Denton in the backrow, when on form is very uncompromising and loves a challenge, he is coming back to form and following a good performance against Munster recently, I expect him to be the best of a faltering Scottish pack.
Lions Watch: Tim Visser – The Dutch born Scottish flyer is scoring tries for fun at the moment. He just needs to turn some more heads on an international level and he will be a shoe in to Oz. I don’t think he will shift the likes of George North or Tommy Bowe for a starting wing berth in the test team. But he has the potential to make an impact on tour.
5th – Italy
The Azzuri, led for the 5th six Nations by the Mercurial Sergio Parrisse, will be a tough nut to crack on their own turf as always. What will be the key to them getting above 5th place will be their away form. If they can beat Wales at the Stadio Olympico, then they could infact make a memorable 4th.
Player to watch: Paolo Buso – The flying Zebre winger has pace to burn and is hoping to add to the only cap he won in 2008.
Lions Watch: Don’t be silly. But if we were taking Italians, Castro would be there!
4th – Wales
Rob Howley has kinda been left in the lurch by Warren Gatland, whilst he is off picking his Lions team Mr Howley has been left to pick up the pieces after a poor Autumn series, missing key forwards Bradley Davies, Ian Evans, Luke Charteris, Alun Wyn Jones and Ryan Jones they will be short of the strong heads that brought them the grand slam last year. However with a back three of North, Cuthbert and Halfpenny, any defence can be unlocked. Write them off at your peril but I can’t see them getting many wins
Player to watch – Alex Cuthbert – The young Cardiff winger announced himself on the international stage with a cracking try in the deciding game of the 2012 six nations. He’s been quite quiet since. But with an outside centre in Jonathan Davies inside him, there will be opportunities galore for him
Lions Watch – Toby Faletau – Much is said of Sam Warburton and Dan Lydiate as being Lions contenders from the Welsh backrow, and most people can’t see past Jamie Heaslip for the number 8 slot. But Faletau brings a youthful edge that will be a match for the Australian backrow. With the handling of a back and the footwork to match nearly any winger. Warren Gatland knows Faletau well and would be silly to leave him at home.
3rd – Ireland
Ireland will have a fit again Brian O’Driscoll to select for the six nations and having him fit always brings out the best in them. Declan Kidneys troops have had a tough 2012, and they will be keen to make amends after finishing third last year. But again I can’t see them beating the French or England.
Player to Watch – Brian O’Driscoll – Not really a player ‘to watch’ per say as everyone worth their salt knows who he is. But when he is on top form, you never want to take your eyes off him. Every defence still fears him.
Lions Watch – Stephen Ferris – A honest worker that misses nothing, will not stop running all day. A must have in Australia.
2nd – France
The French are on a high at the moment, beating all comers in the Autumn, but what happens with the French, is they switch off when they are starting to show their potential. They will come unstuck against England and possibly Wales. Pascal Pape has kept the captaincy over Thierry Dusatoir following the performances in his absence. This doesn’t mean the French number six won’t put himself about and make it known that he should be skipper.
Player to watch – Mathieu Bastareaud – The French wrecking ball has been overlooked for a number of years, but following a frank conversation with his Toulon coach Bernard Laporte, he is turning it on for his club inspired by Jonny Wilkinson and the rest of the star studded line up at the ‘Real Madrid of rugby’. Expect him to make his mark in the first 10 minutes against Italy in 3 weeks time by squashing someone!
1st – England
Am I being patriotic? Possibly…. A little bit biased? Most definitely! But do I care? No! After one of the best performances from the red rose in a number of years against the All Blacks, Stuart Lancasters men would look to build on that with a solid performance in the Six Nations, with such promising performances from Joe Launchbury, Alex Goode, Tom Youngs and Mike Brown. The current crop of players could mature to match the team of 2003. Not yet… But they could.
Player to Watch – Billy Twelvetrees – The Gloucester Centre is in sparkling form in the Guinness Premiership and could be the answer to England’s biggest problem – Who should partner Manu Tuilagi in the centres? Brad Barritt did a good job in the Autumn but he is too similar to the Samoan born powerhouse, Jonathan Joeseph played well in South Africa on the summer tour, but that would mean moving Tuilagi to 12, where he isn’t as effective. Twelvetrees provides that extra piece of creativity with a massive boot. He may be overlooked for a more tried and tested combination, but with a world cup 2 years away the time to bed in is now.
Lions Watch – Tom Youngs – The Leicester Hooker has been a revelation since switching from Centre to the Front Row, an absolute terror in the loose and his scrummaging and lineout throwing are getting better with every game. He is a much more solid choice than Dylan Hartley as you know you will keep him on the pitch for 80 minutes. Would be a great tourist.
Check back over the coming weeks to see my predictions for every weekend and my teams of the week.