Six predictions for the Six Nations

Adam Kyriacou

Ahead of the Six Nations we’ve put our heads together to bring you some serious and also lighthearted predictions ahead of the Championship.

England‘s Six Nations struggles to continue: Last year’s fifth place finish was a real low point for England but we don’t expect a massive U-turn from them in terms of the standings in 2019. While there are reasons to be optimistic when looking at their squad and the fresh faces coming through, the tournament is so high on quality this year that momentum in terms of results is going to be massive. They face difficult games against the Irish at the Aviva Stadium and Wales in Cardiff in Rounds 1 and 3, with France at Twickenham in between always a closely fought affair that could go either way. Losing two of those three matches would see the knives out and pressure on ahead of their remaining encounters.

Wales more than dark horses: Nine victories in a row cannot be underestimated as Wales march into this championship looking very much like the real deal. Warren Gatland’s side beat France, South Africa (twice), Argentina, Scotland and Australia in amongst that streak and will have taken massive confidence from the past 11 months. The absence of injured number eight Taulupe Faletau is a setback while full-back Leigh Halfpenny continues to struggle with concussion, but they still have enough quality and belief in their attack and defence to threaten for glory. A win against France in Paris would be the ideal springboard as they look to make the next step in Gatland’s final year as coach.

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Referees and TMOs controversy to reign: International rugby is played at such a pace and has so much riding on results that it is inevitable that decisions are going to be questioned. We saw in November the Owen Farrell tackle fallout after games against South Africa and Australia, and there were moments in other fixtures that left pundits frustrated and fans taking to their keyboards on social media. While we of course don’t want any match to be decided in controversial fashion, unfortunately it’s a possibility in high pressure moments. Brace yourselves…

Ireland to retain the title: The absence of Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne would leave a pretty sizeable hole in any international side’s stocks but, such is the depth in Ireland’s cupboard right now, they can look to Ultan Dillane and Quinn Roux as back-ups to James Ryan and Devin Toner. Scanning their squad, one struggles to find any weak link as they boast at least two players in every position who can add to Ireland’s game when called upon – the mark of a great team. Those options, the addition of Will Addison, Joey Carbery’s rise and leaders aplenty in their squad makes them obvious favourites for glory this year. It won’t be easy mind as they have trips to Scotland and Wales.

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Rugby World Cup mentions galore: There will be no hiding from it we are afraid. With the action in Japan eight months away, expect to hear numerous references to the tournament, whether it be Ireland’s chances of going all the way or if a serious injury strikes a player that it will be “a race against time” for him to prove his fitness. Of course, we’re excited about the prospect of what could well be the best World Cup ever on September 20 through to November 2, but let’s try and focus as much as possible on what we expect to be a superb Six Nations, which is fascinatingly poised due to Ireland’s and Wales’ form and England’s and Scotland’s ability to beat anyone on their day. Bring on the drama.

France to finish fifth: We’ve already touched on just how crucial that opening game in Paris will be and if the result goes the way of the Welsh then it could be the start of a dismal Six Nations campaign for the French. November’s home loss to Fiji would have cut them deep and their supporters won’t have forgotten that game in a hurry, which could lead to them turning on their side even quicker than normal if they do not get out of the blocks. A visit to England, hosting Scotland and then a daunting game against the Irish in Dublin then follows, which could well see them with a 0 from 4 record before they travel to Italy in what is likely to be a Wooden Spoon decider on the final weekend.