In what might be the best rugby tournament outside of the Rugby World Cup, the Six Nations is here and we here at RSTN could not be any more excited. This annual tournament could be the most exciting and competitive yet with so many talented and balanced squads. While there might be a favorite to win this tournament, it is going to be such a tight race for the crown. Let’s take a look at the contenders.
England is the favorite to win this tournament and for good reasons as they boast a very talented and experienced side. Head coach Eddie Jones has done a nice job with bringing the players that he has especially seeked out after bringing England from an embarrassing result in the 2018 Six Nations edition to a runner up finish in the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The team boasts such great names as Maro Itoje, Mako Vunipola, Tom Curry, Owen Farrell, and Manu Tuilagi, but this squad is absolutely stacked.
It’s unknown what the French are going to be like in this tournament as there were 19 uncapped players named to the squad, but one thing everyone should know is that they are going to be really good soon as lots of their players helped France win two U20 World Championships. Head coach Fabien Galthie is a no nonsense and tough coach, but he seems to have a plan that will make them successful. We don’t know what type of France will show up during this tournament as they have been a very inconsistent side for the last couple of years and this version is very inexperienced, but the French are building something that could be a force to be reckoned with. Some notable names are Antoine Dupont, Demba Bamba, Romain Ntamack, Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Teddy Thomas. However, keep an eye on Louis Carbonel, Mattheiu Jalibert, Arthur Vincent, and Julien Marchand.
With a new head coach, Andy Farrell, having taken over for Joe Schmidt, Ireland are in a transition. With some question marks of whom is going to start where, especially at hooker, and the debate over whether Conor Murray should be the starting scrumhalf anymore, the Irish have put together a very strong team. The weakest part of their squad is the lineout, but they will be working on that during the tournament. With some fresh new faces like Caelan Doris, Max Deegan, and Ronan Kelleher joining the veterans like Jonathan Sexton, Murray, Devin Toner, and Keith Earls, it should be a fun squad to watch. Murray and John Cooney will battle it out for the scrumhalf position, so that will be interesting to watch. Other notable names include CJ Stander, Jacob Stockdale, Jordan Larmour, Tadhg Furlong, and Robbie Henshaw.
Italy has not been progressing that much ever since they joined the tournament in 2000, but there are some talented players on their squad. Whether or not the Italians shock the world and perform well remains to be seen, but after 20 years, they need to show progression. But with how some of their Italian clubs have done in the Pro14, Italy has been producing some very good players and there are some who are even playing in the Premiership. Players to keep an eye on are Luca Bigi, Jake Polledri, Braam Steyn, Tommaso Allan, Luca Morisi, Tommaso Benvenuti, and Matteo Minozzi.
Scotland is a hard one to figure out as they have a lot of talented players and they looked like they were on the rise. However, there has been some struggles and questions have been brought up about whether they can compete consistently. That being said, head coach Gregor Townsend has named a very strong team. The biggest question will be who starts at flyhalf after Finn Russell was dismissed from the team. The other question is who will replace Greig Laidlaw at scrumhalf in the long-term. Either way, this will be a huge tournament for the Scottish. Players to keep an eye on are Jonny Gray, Hamish Watson, Sam Johnson, Sean Maitland, Stuart Hogg, and Blair Kinghorn.
The Welsh are the reigning Six Nations champions and Grand Slam winners, but there are questions as to whether they are out of form as they peaked early in 2019. That will be answered come this tournament, but new head coach Wayne Pivac has named an incredibly strong team who looks to match up well with England, Ireland, and Scotland. Some notable players to watch for are Alun Wyn Jones, Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Taulupe Faletau, Ross Moriarty, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Dan Biggar, George North, Leigh Halfpenny, Jonah Holmes, and Liam Williams. Also, some new faces to keep an eye on are Nick Tompkins and Louis Rees-Zammit.
James Rowe: Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this tournament as it looks evenly matched. I agree that England looks to be the favorite to win this, but Ireland, Wales, and Scotland have something to prove. That’s why I think this table is going to be hard to predict. One loss to one of these nations will make a huge difference. There might be some upsets and I think there will be a lot of gasps. This has the makings to be a very fun tournament that could be decided on the last day and I believe all four I mentioned will have a chance to win it on that last day.