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2021 Six Nations Preview

It seems like we’ve only just finished the 2020 Six Nations and already we’re here again. England eventually won the prolonged 2020 tournament, largely due to the losing bonus point they won in Paris, and are the favourites to win the trophy this year, with France again being their biggest rivals. Let’s take a quick look into the teams and their prospects for the tournament this year.


England have been hit hard by Covid-19, with Eddie Jones and two other coaches having to miss the start of the training camp as they were self-isolating, their skills coach Jason Ryles being stuck in Australia, and also being restricted to a 28-man squad in order to prevent the risk of spreading the virus around the squad. There is also the absence of prominent forwards Mako Vunipola, Kyle Sinckler, Joe Marler, Joe Launchbury and Sam Underhill which has been a selection headache for Eddie Jones. However, only once in the last 10 campaigns have England slipped out of the top two spots, and so despite the adversity, they are still looking like strong contenders coming into the tournament.


France have proved that they are serious contenders for the Six Nations title (and even the World Cup in 2023), having only just lost out on the win last year by the barest of margins. And not only that but they were extremely close to winning the Autumn Nations Cup in December whilst fielding a second-string team, which has only shown the depth of their current squad. However, like England, they are missing a few key players, most notably Romain Ntamack, but also Viremi Vakatawa, Demba Bamba and Cameron Woki and so it will be interesting to see how the ‘first team’ pull together throughout the tournament.


Ireland finished third in both last year’s tournament and in the Autumn Nations Cup, giving head coach Andy Farrell a pleasing end to the year after a few rather disappointing away performances. Jacob Stockdale and forwards Caelan Doris and Quinn Roux have been ruled out of their opener against Wales, however with the recent inclusion of Paul O’Connell as the forwards coach, there is a new spotlight being placed on the line-outs and specifically Iain Henderson who is poised to come back after a lengthy lay-off. It will be important for Ireland to regain control of their set-piece as well as turning possession and territory into more points and wins for them to finish higher in the table than last time.


Wayne Pivac is currently running at a 30% success rate, having only won against Italy in last year’s Six Nations and only beating Georgia in the Autumn Nations Cup, and so it would be fair to say that morale in the Welsh camp is not at an all-time high. It won’t help that fans still aren’t allowed into the venues as it takes away the excitement of playing at the Millennium Stadium. Flanker Dan Lydiate has been called back into the Welsh set up having made his debut 10 years ago and although he is currently in good form it does show the measures that Pivac is taking to try and get some success for his team this year. Let’s see how it pans out for him…


Finn Russell's return to the Scotland set-up last following his very public exclusion last autumn was short-lived after he sustained an injury at the end of October. However, he is now fit again and has been named in the 35-man squad, much to the delight of many Scottish supporters. Bath centre Cameron Redpath is set to make his debut this weekend lining up outside Russell. He was previously involved in the England set up, but as he was never awarded a cap, has elected to play for Scotland instead. Head coach Gregor Townsend said, “The opportunity of competing for the Calcutta Cup against our oldest rivals is something to get Scots around the world excited about.” And it’s not just the Scots who are excited… Bring on the weekend!

Italy head coach Franco Smith's team has an average age of just 24 and in 2020 they were conceding five tries per game, and only once did they manage to put more than 20 points on the scoreboard. It is unlikely that will we see a huge change in these stats this tournament, especially with the absence of the talented Matteo Minozzi who would usually be playing at full-back. However, Smith seems to be looking to the future of Azzurri, and as much as he is gunning for immediate success, he is also keen on long-term improvements and helping Italy become more competitive in these competitions.


With the potential of a British & Irish Lions Tour hanging in the balance, players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales will see the Six Nations as the ideal opportunity to contest for a spot in the prestigious squad. England are firm favourites to the lift the Six Nations trophy in March and I believe that this will come with a grand slam win too. As we hit the half way stage between World Cup’s, this year will be used to experiment with both players and plays, and so it should make for exciting viewing. We can only hope that soon we will be able to watch the matches live at the stadiums and cheer on our teams in person.

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