Adam Jones’ Six Nations predictions: Gutsy calls with a ‘serious threat’ of an upset

James While
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Wales legend Adam Jones makes his predictions for the opening round of the 2024 Six Nations.

Wales legend Adam Jones makes his predictions for the opening round of the 2024 Six Nations.

Legendary Wales prop and now Harlequins scrum coach Adam Jones sits down with Planet Rugby’s James While to make his predictions for the opening round of this year’s Six Nations.

We have teamed up with eToro, the official investing and trading partner of Premiership Rugby, to cover the 2024 Six Nations, previewing and reviewing the entire tournament.

Following on from Bernard Jackman’s Expert Witness delving deep into the opening round, we have asked Jones to make his predictions for the first three games of the championship.

And just to make it a bit of fun, we’ll be making our own predictions for each game and will track our performance week-by-week to see whether we can outsmart our illustrious guests.

Without further ado, here are Jones’ predictions and previews.

France v Ireland

There’s a theme here of both teams wanting to respond to their World Cup disappointments, and I expect this to be an absolutely brutal battle of the gainline and set-piece in what promises to be the game of the tournament.

To add a little more spice, both sides are without their midfield leaders – for Ireland, Johnny Sexton has finally hung up his boots, whilst Antoine Dupont is on his Olympic sabbatical, leaving both holes to fill but opportunity for others.

It’s in Marseille, a short pitch (94m long) that usually offers chances for teams that play with width, but for me, it’s that breakdown clash that’s the key battle. There’s a difference in approach there; Ireland possibly have more threat over the ball in disruption, with some great jackallers in their back-row and lock positions.

France are more of a power-carrying side, and unusually, with Julien Marchand on the bench, their best stealer is in the centres, Jonathan Danty, although the new skipper, Gregory Alldritt, is always a threat. France love to get their big men taking the ball up, but if they have one weakness, it’s their propensity to get isolated.

The other key factor is Ireland have the Leinster connection, and that continuity allows them to start a little hotter than France, so that’s where I think Ireland have the edge and that’s why I call them to win by four points.

Head-to-head: Ireland might have the edge in that gainline-breakdown battle, but they also need to get a foothold in the set-piece, and I am excited to watch two world-class props in Andrew Porter and Uini Atonio go head to head once more. Porter needs to stay legal and do a job on big Uini, and his performance will be key.

Players to watch: It has to be Maxime Lucu for France; he’s on fire for Bordeaux, and there’s little doubt he’s a world-class operator with a kicking game equal to Dupont’s. For Ireland, Dan Sheehan possibly doesn’t get the plaudits he deserves, and he’s very much the heartbeat of the Irish forward effort, with huge intellect around the lineout moves.

Planet Rugby's prediction: France 32-25 Ireland, Adam Jones' prediction: France 17-21 Ireland.

Italy v England

Now there’s simply no doubt that Steve Borthwick’s England showed a huge turnaround based upon a simple gameplan during the Rugby World Cup.

However, unlike other home unions, he has a huge pool of players to pick from, and this often sees England start slowly in the Six Nations. Contrast that to Italy, who almost beat France in last year’s opener and have the European form of Benetton to piggyback off, and I don’t think this is the forgone conclusion some are suggesting.

Coaches often say that attack is the last part of the four pillars of the game (defence, set-piece, breakdown and attack) that you bolt onto your team, and I see England aiming to achieve this, especially considering the way Quins, Saints and Bath are playing at domestic and European level, and I am excited to see that a lot of players are being rewarded for their club form above anything else.

England will see a lot of change in their personnel and will be trying to retain experience in key positions whilst blooding new players, like Ethan Roots and Fraser Dingwall, around those blocks of proven Test match performers.

For Italy, they are a powerful team with a great back row that will cause England a lot of issues at the breakdown. They underperformed in the World Cup, but often under a new coach, the outstanding Gonzalo Quesada, that freshness of voice can inspire new heights of performance.

Allied to that, the Azzurri have some serious threat and gas in their backline and are not short of gas if they get possession and field position against an English defence that’s just bedding in.

It’s so hard to call this one but I suspect England will have just enough so I’ll go with them but expect it to be a much closer match than many might think.

Head-to-head: At 13, Henry Slade has been in peerless form for Exeter and really has a point to prove after his World Cup omission. He’ll be up against one of the most underrated players in the sport in Juan Ignacio Brex, one of the most complete and competitive outside centres around.

Players to watch: You always look forward to Ange Capuozzo with ball in hand at the back, and equally, I love the work of Danilo Fischetti, a real mobile prop up front. For England, it’s about the new boys, and I can’t wait to see the new, improved version of Tommy Freeman in their backline, whilst up front, Ben Earl will continue to show his mobility and abrasion in a changed England back-row.

Planet Rugby's prediction: Italy 17-40 England, Adam Jones' prediction: Italy 20-25 England.

Wales v Scotland

I’ll admit to a bit of bias here, but when these two sides meet, they traditionally deliver a wonderfully open and attacking game of rugby, and I think, given Wales go in as underdogs, that they’ll go out there and simply give it a craic with nothing to lose and all to gain. We all know how wonderful Scotland is with ball in hand, so I reckon this will be a thriller to watch.

Scotland are far more settled in their personnel than Wales are, and the grand majority of their team play for the two franchises north of the border, so the relationships are deep, and they know their game inside out. Finn Russell is on fire for Bath and is maturing like a fine wine as a match controller and Wales will need a lot of pressure from their smaller but fast back-row to close the maestro down.

However, I know from personal experience just how good Warren Gatland is in this situation and I absolutely expect him to be motivating his youngsters to go out and be fearless and use their underdog tag to their own advantage. In the set-piece, Grant Gilchrist’s absence for Scotland just tips the lineout and maul in Wales’ favour, and I expect big games from Adam Beard and Dafydd Jenkins, the new skipper, both Lions candidates as locks.

Wales’ superpower, like Ireland’s, might just be their ability over the ball and speed at the breakdown – Tommy Reffell and the criminally underrated Aaron Wainwright are both real Test match dogs and if they can cause chaos, then I am going to call an unlikely Wales’ win.

Head-to-head: Whilst I will be really keen to see how Leon Brown handles Pierre Schoeman up front, you really have to look at the 12 channel where the spiky Nick Tompkins faces Sione Tuipulotu. Tuipulotu’s work rate is off the charts, and the sheer amount of interventions he makes over the 80 minutes is impressive. He’s got the lot in terms of a toolkit, and Tompkins, someone who punches way above his size, will need all of his defensive skill to contain the Scot.

Players to watch: Wainwright, as mentioned before, is a real glue player for Wales. He might not be the biggest eight around, but he’s got high ball skills and an incredible engine. For Scotland, you really have to look no further than Russell at 10 – a world-class performer, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he brings his Bath learnings into the Test arena.

Planet Rugby's prediction: Wales 18-35 Scotland, Adam Jones' prediction: Wales 32-25 Scotland

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