Six Nations 2016 Preview
It’s February, and that means that its Six Nations Time. The Rugby world is looking forward to seeing what Eddie Jones’ new look *AHEM* England has to offer following their dismal exit at at the World Cup. As usual we’ll review each team’s chances in the competition, their key players and ones to watch, and also our table predictions. So without further ado, here’s our Six Nations 2016 Preview.
Italy – 6th
The Azzuri as usual will put up a decent fight up front for 60 minutes. Their backline play is also beginning to become competitive. However, in tight games (Scotland) they tend to be exposed with 20 to play and will be blown away when playing away from the Stadio Olimpico.
Key Man – Leonardo Ghiraldini
As all other blogs and papers will almost certainly go Sergio Parisse, we thought we’d think outside the box a little and go for someone other than Italy’s clear talisman. Leonardo Ghiraldini fits that bill and will be key to any Italian success. His combative style galvanises the Azurri’s tight five and when he, Castrogiovanni and co. are on fire, they are a tough forward to beat at scrumtime.
One to Watch – David Odiete
Odiete has been ripping it up for Zebre in the Guinness Pro12 and deserves his starting spot against France on Saturday. Fearless under the high ball and an eye for a gap, we would expect some courageous running from deep this weekend!
Scotland – 5th
As usual the competition for the wooden spoon will be between Scotland and Italy with Italy losing out purely because they play Scotland at Murrayfield. Scotland showed promise in the World Cup and only knocked out by Australia thanks to a bit of dodgy refereeing. Having said that, we don’t think they have the strength in depth to push further up the table.
Key Man – John Barclay
In the partial international wilderness since 2013, Barclay played in two World Cup warm up games but was omitted from the final squad, which in our opinion was a massive mistake. A man who will tackle everything and, who moves and carries all game, he will be pivotal to any success Scotland has in the tournament and his experience will be vital.
One to Watch – Zander Fagerson
At only 20, the Glasgow tight-head is very young to be on the international stage. However, Fagerson clearly caught the eye of the selectors and is expected to be a stalwart in the Scottish side for years to come.
France – 4th
The French are a new look side, with new coach Guy Noves selecting a very strange starting line up to face Italy. Selecting Virimi Vakatawa on the wing – a man who has not played professional 15-a-side rugby since late 2013 is a massive move. Granted he is a top talent in the Sevens circuit at the moment but throwing him straight into an international game smells of masterstroke, or disaster. Our opinion is the latter.
Key Man – Louis Picamoles
How do you stop this man before the gain line? A player that always seems to make positive yards. When he’s on fire, France seem to always get front foot ball and their backs look like a class act. The only reason why he is not yet a French great is because he doesn’t perform like this in every game.
One to Watch – Sebastein Bezy
Injuries to Morgan Parra has forced Noves to select Bezy at Scrum half and the player will relish the occasion. His half-back pairing with Toby Flood at Toulouse has shaped him into a fine player. His sharpness at the breakdown will keep close defenders honest and if they take their eye off him, they’ll see him skipping over the tryline.
Ireland – 3rd
Ireland have a very large ginger hole to fill in the second row. Without Paul O’Connell, the Irish lose their rock of the last 12 years. With Iain Henderson injured, there is an even bigger void to fill. How well the pack adapt and perform will shape their tournament but we feel it will be a transition tournament, with close games not going their way due to the change in leadership.
Key Man – Jonny Sexton
After the retirement of Dan Carter from international rugby, Sexton it arguably the best in the world on his day. However I don’t think he has the players around him to beat the Welsh or English.
One to Watch – Robbie Henshaw
Henshaw is the real deal, a hard, strong running inside centre with silky handling. Not quite Brian O’Driscoll but he is moving in the right direction to fill the rather large shoes in the middle of the park.
England – 2nd
If you’ve watched any of the interviews with Eddie Jones recently, it seems he’s going to freshen up England’s approach to the game by having a specialist Open Side ‘fetcher’ – bringing in George Smith for specialist coaching. Seeing the starting line up for Saturday’s game, we’re a little disappointed. There’s no room for Elliot Daly or Maro Itoje in the matchday squad, and the side is pretty much the same as the one that limped off against Wales and Australia in the World Cup. Is James Haskell really a specialist openside flanker? However, picking experience over promise will grant them a win over Scotland but their style of play will have a faint whiff of the Stuart Lancaster about it, we reckon.
Key Man – Mike Brown
The Locksmith has the ability to unlock the tightest of defenses and score something from nothing. Eddie Jone’s decision to make Brown Vice-Captain was a good one. Brown will relish the responsibility and it will further improve his standing on the international stage. Let’s hope he doesn’t have another strop in a post match interview!
One to Watch – Paul Hill
Hill has stepped up for Saints in the absence of Northampton’s regular tighthead prop Kieran Brookes. He’s only 20-years-old, but Hill has the pedigree coming through the England age group teams and winning the Junior World Championship in 2014. He’s powerful and technically very sound considering his age.
Wales – 1st
Wales will have learnt from their mistakes at the World Cup and will be ruthless. Dan Biggar is in the form of his life and with a fit Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies outside him, we think they could be unstoppable. Their backline will also take some beating. Gatland has picked Justin Tipuric at Openside for the opening game, with Sam Warburton moving to the Blindside and Dan Lydiate dropping to the bench. This indicates that Wales will be playing more expansive game and should be very exciting to watch this year.
Key Man – Dan Biggar
BIGGARENA! Enough Said.
One to Watch – Gareth Anscombe
Tough to pick a one to watch as the Welsh Team are vastly experienced but we’ve have gone for Gareth Anscombe. Limited appearances due to the quality of the Welsh line up, the injury to Leigh Halfpenny has given him his chance and he needs to perform well to take it. Our only issue is that he’s been picked at Full-Back, a position he’s not a specialist in. We think Gatland will be using him as a second attacking option at fly-half, which also points towards an expansive game.
Do you agree / disagree with out final standings? Who do you think will be a stand out performer? Let us know in the comments below!