Previewing The 2018 Six Nations Tournament

NatWest-6-Nations-Logo

A year later and we are now back at it in Europe with the annual Six Nations Tournament, the 19th edition since Italy joined in 2000. However, there are a few new changes with it now being sponsored by NatWest rather than RBS and also now there will be live broadcast in the United States, which will be shown on NBC Sports Network. There always is excitement for this tournament, but this one might shape up to be one of the best and most competitive ones in the history of the competition. There are three legitimate contenders, but all the matches they will play against one another will be so incredibly crucial in deciding the winner of the Six Nations. Ireland, England, and Scotland look to be the front runners, while Wales looks to be on the fringe and with France and Italy looking to play as spoilers. But, even before it has begun, there has been a big headline as the top countries have endured massive blows to their squad due to injuries causing even some head coaches to say that another country is the favorite to win because their own team is so deeply impacted by these injuries. With that though, lets take a look at each nation:

England

The back-to-back champions of the tournament and one of the favorites. While this squad might be the most talented nation in the tournament, it is also the most injured. Injuries could derail it’s chances of winning it three years in a row (which would be a record). What it could do is give them a chance to see some possible stars in the making as they will get playing time, however, hope is not on faithful’s side.

Ireland

There is an article that says that Ireland is entering it’s golden era. While their 2015 Rugby World Cup team is arguably the best they’ve ever put out on the field, that just goes to show that Ireland could be a dominant force. They are incredibly talented, but they always seem to underachieve and are not quite disciplined enough to get the results they should. While dealing with some injuries, this looks like the most complete squad in the tournament and could be the winners.

Scotland

A surprise team last year, some are even picking them to win this tournament. And for good reason as this is one of the most talented squads they’ve had for a very long time. And the one good thing is that they are healthy and ready to go. That might give them an edge. They also have a high tempo type offense which could help them against the likes of England, Ireland, and Wales who are dealing with some injuries and inexperience. If they win this tournament, don’t be surprised.

Wales

This one is very unfortunate as they are incredibly injury riddled. Had they’d been healthy, this would have been a four nation race. While they could make some noise, there really isn’t too much hope as they will be using a lot of young players. However, with their track record, they might still be competitive because they still have a great coach and there still is lots of talent. It would make things more exciting if it was a four nation race

France

France are now on hard times. Many of their key players are injured and other ones had gone off to retirement, so a rebuild could be an appropriate term to use for France. They do flash some speed which could benefit them against some other squads that are dealing with injuries, but it is not looking very pretty for them. They will likely struggle in this tournament.

Italy

Even since they joined the tournament in 2000, Italy has struggled to make a name for themselves. There is talent there, but they seem to lack a big interest from the nation that is big into football/soccer (whatever you want to call it). They always seem to play tough in every match they play and might have a chance at beating out France for the cellar, but they will struggle as well in this version of the tournament. A time will come for them though.

Predictions

James Rowe: “I look at this as it could possibly be the best Six Nations ever to played or at least the best I’ve ever watched since I got into the sport. It looks like there will be a lot of hard fought matches between three or even possibly four nations in this tournament.¬† While I think Scotland has a chance I just don’t seem them winning it. My guess is that it comes down to the very last match which is between Ireland and England. With that being said, I think England is too banged up and that Ireland will win this tournament.”

Aaron Craig (main rugby analyst):

“England:
They are the defending champs and the favorite to repeat. A Grand Slam is very possible for this team due to their depth and every position. I expect to see a lot of tries from the open play. Even though they are missing Billy Vunipola and Elliott Daly they still have enough talent to overcome these losses.
Ireland:
This is the only other team that I believe has a shot at dethroning England and also nab a Grand Slam. Stifling defense and field position are the keys to the Irish game. Pair that with the best half-back combo (Murray/Sexton) and great open field running loose forwards and this is a championship caliber team.
Scotland:
SCOOOOTLAND!!! The Scots are back…I hope. The Scottish team has had a resurgence of late, starting in the November test ( a double over Australia and a narrow loss to NZ). Stuart Hogg is arguably the best playmaker in the tournament; and the Scotland back line has found their stride. They are missing a few key forwards so they’ll try to avoid getting bogged down and spread the ball.
Wales:
Wales or should I say the Scarlets? Seems like just about every member of the team come from the club. Should be good for team cohesion and I expect the play styles to be similar. Wales has been bitten by the injury bug and it could cause some struggle in the first weeks.
France:
What happened to the French team since I was in college? The flair and fire is gone. Add in a new coach and their will probably be a feeling out period. They are in for some tough times.
Italy:
Italy? More like Sergio Parise. The lone bright spot on the team. While they remain competitive, they are still the worst team in the field.
Winner: England.”

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