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I can't wait for the Six Nations to begin

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John Beattie | 17:35 UK time, Sunday, 31 January 2010

Another of my favourite rugby jokes - and these things happened in the olden days on Lions tours. Lions captain to referee: "Sir, who's put-in is it at the scrum?" Referee: "Ours."

But that's another diversion and this is your blog. Yeeeha, this time of year gives me one more delicious reason to live because the Six Nations tournament is here. Ever since I can remember, this time of year means watching the world's best tournament.

You have to understand that my generation stood on terraces accepting cans of beer from Welshmen who made it a week's trip to go to Murrayfield, or taking wine from smoky Frenchmen who smiled and laughed as their team kicked ours off the park.

But who is going to win? Come on, tell me who you think is going to win.

According to the International Rugby Board website, England has more than two million registered rugby players, France has a quarter of a million, Ireland 150,000, Italy 60,000, Wales 46,000, and Scotland 32,000. England have nearly four times as many rugby players as the rest of the Six Nations teams added together!

England first. If the team clicks, someone is going to get hammered. I don't understand why the current English side plays the ball so deep to the stand-off from broken play as they seem to go backwards. That said, I don't see a weakness in set piece, nor in attack.


My outsider's view is that skipper Steve Borthwick is a class act while, with Jonny Wilkinson and Martin Johnson around in albeit differing capacities, they have lots of experience. Plus, they have been training in Portugal, something Scotland, for instance, could never afford.

England are my tip to be joint winners this year, but only if they produce the badness that Johnson had as a player. And they have to overcome trips to Italy, Scotland and France.

Talking of France, you never know which team is going to turn up. However, they only have to travel to Scotland and Wales, so I think they will share the championship with England. The French have become predictable in how they play, though, with a search to take the ball right to each touchline copying English club rugby and Welsh international rugby.

You cannot overestimate the effect that Andy Robinson is having on Scotland. There are lots of options at wing - Evans, Lamonts and Daniellis - but some decisions to be made at back row and stand-off. England and France at home means it might just be mid-table.

I want Wales to do well. A real rugby country with a penchant for self-destruction and at times a lack of real grunt up front - but such a beautiful attacking game, using runners in wide channels. They have to go to Ireland and England.

Ireland have the experience of Brian O'Driscoll, the guile of Declan Kidney and enough gumption to beat anyone on their day - hardly a weak link - though they are starting to get a bit arrogant with their Grand Slam.

And the Italians? Rome is a horrible place to play. They even sold out the San Siro to play the All Blacks. One day Italian rugby will overtake Scottish and Welsh rugby, of that I am convinced. But not yet.

So it's England, France, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy.

What do you think and what is your best Five or Six Nations memory?


  • Comment number 1.

    Hmmm, well, I can see how you could have France winning it... but England?

    If their performances in this years Hene cup are anything to go by, then England are going nowhere. It will need a massive change in form and confidence from many players. The Guinness premiership is not that great right now - as has been proven in Europe this year - and thus I would be wary of placing too much weight on it when making predictions.

  • Comment number 2.

    I always thought the Heineken cup was a club tournament. Apparently England have been playing! I guess you learn something new every day.

  • Comment number 3.

    @ py0alb

    Are the English players not mostly playing for English clubs?

    I was politely trying to say that players are performing in the guinness premiership against a lower class of opposition (I didn't really want to go out of my way to disparage those in the GuinnessP). They then struggle when the going gets tougher in Europe.

    The 6N will be a yet higher standard again...

  • Comment number 4.

    As usual, a little strange - England joint winners?

    If England lose the opening game to Wales, which is quite possible even with home advantage, they're out of it. They're away to France and I also think they'll lose at home to Ireland.

    So my list goes....

    France, Ireland, Wales, England, Scotland, Italy

  • Comment number 5.

    Once upon a time, Ireland where the nearly men, not having the character to make it all the way, as the critics would say. Nine years of being the most consistent team along with France, losing out to foot in mouth and points difference on the way, finally getting the grand slam and now they are arrogant?!
    The comments from the Irish team in recent times doesnt come across as arrogant, they seem to be as grounded with the realisation that to be champions is great and you celebrate it while you can, but it is never permanent and you have fight again to retain it.
    This year will not see a Grand Slam winner, but will come down to points and who can win at Home and Away will be the difference. Theres four teams in the race for the title!

  • Comment number 6.


    You must have had a few beers when you made this prediction!!!

    How you can justify England being joint winners is ludicrous. France I understand but England!! Come on, you must be winding me up.

    You dont see a weakness in set piece nor attack? How did you come to this. England have failed to impress in attack since MJ took over England and thats not his fault as it goes back further than that.

    Set-piece - They are missing their two experienced props and got to settle with the newbees which, have to go up against two of the best props on the planet in Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins.

    Wales have an excellent opportunity this year as they must fancy themselves against England and should they win that then they'll have the confidence to do well throughout.

    France, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England and Italy. Thats my prediction for this year.

  • Comment number 7.

    Its all about the first weekend. Ireland have the easiest of starts at home to Italy. But the Scotland v France and England v Wales games are very open games.

    Scotland have not lost at home to France since 2004 i believe and if refereeing decisions had not gone against Scotland (seemingly a perpetual thing) you never know the Scots could have taken Paris? Last years debacle with the referee lying on the floor whilst the french sheparded the ball and then passed it forward etc etc. I remember with horror as well Ally Hogg breaking clean down the flank to score only for the ruddy linesman to call back play for a foot in touch - replays - errr..blunder....try. Another grievance - Shane Williams - admittedly brilliant effort last year - but his foot was in touch!!!

    I am a Scotland fan - you may have guessed - but i honestly believe and have been saying for abou three four years now that Scotland have been building gradually at every level. And the progress is evident to see in results across the board.
    The professional clubs sides having their best seasons on record last season and this. Heineken Cup victories away at places like Toulouse and Wasps.
    The Sevens side having their best season on record last year.
    The U20s? in last years 6 Nations despite having no players who had club caps managed to i believe have a championship decider against England who had a side crammed full of regulars premiership - they lost just - but very encouraging.
    The international side has put together some great results in recent years victories against France x2, England x2, Argentina away, should have beaten South Africa, Australia last autumn.
    Plus we have had a very young squad for a long time now - these players are getting older, better, wiser and more confident.
    I predicted three years ago that Scotland would take a big scalp somewhere. South Africa nearly happened, Argentina was excellent, Australia was monumental. France and England at home - if we start well against a very good but unpredictable French side i see no reason why both Wales and Italy away can not be one.
    As for Ireland we play them on the last weekend in Ireland. You never know if the Lion Rampant roars like i believe it will that could not only be a championship decider but a Grand Slam decider.

    The fixtures:

    France at Murrayfield - first day - the Lion is woken from its labourious slumbers for the first time since the late ninties.

    Wales in Cardiff - off the back of an opening day victory - a tight 3 to 7 point victory in Cardiff. The Lion purs.

    Italy in Rome - the Lion Rampant lashing around on its leash away from home as Andy Robinson ensures victory with a clinical victory.

    England at Murrayfield - The Auld Enemy - haven't one up here since the world cup. The Lion Rampant unleashed shreds the Englsih rose in a pulsating encounter which Scotland dominate in the first quarter and up to half time. England rally until the 60th only for Scottish patriotism to prevail.

    Ireland in Dublin - D-Day.

    In my opinion Scotland are a younger Ireland side. If Scotland continue their progress in midfield - we have the talent out wide and up front to cause damage anywhere any time.

    The Lion Rampant prowls for the moment. The Scots wait breath abeited. Cheers caught in their throat. Same old story? Not this time.

  • Comment number 8.

    I can see where your coming from with england winning but they must have an outstanding performance against wales. I think if england have any chance of winning the 6 nations they have to put serious points on them. Also Johnson must give his side some of the aggression and quality he had as a player he also has to pick the correct side and look at playing on the gain line and use the pace they have out on the wings.

  • Comment number 9.

    John...i recken you're spot on! Im fed up reading everyones 'doom and gloom' of english rugby theories.

    Since when was the heineken cup an indication as to who would win the six nations? The welsh and the irish have all their best players compacted into four good club sides. England have at least a dozen clubs to chose their international players from, as well as a dozen players playing in france. I think england will build some momentum going into the autum internationals. I think they will lose one 6N game, possibly against france. But i think MJ's team will peak just in time for the world cup! lets not forget he knows how to build a world beating side better than ANYONE!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Now with a more realistic outlook (ish).

    Ireland v Italy - Home Win

    England v Wales - Home Win

    Scotland v France - Home Win

    I fancy France to having lost the first game to rampage through their next games. Their second game is Ireland in Paris. Either way if Scotland do or do not beat France - Ireland will be up against the wall.

    Wales v Scotland - Either way but just whatever way it does go?

    France v Ireland - Home Win

    Italy v England - Away Win

    Wales will have lost to England and may or may not have beaten Scotland at home.
    With England opening with a hard fought but not to scrappy 10 point victory over Wales and then Italy in Rome, they then face Ireland at Twikers. Ireland could be coming off a gutting beating in France.

    Wales v France - Away Win

    Italy v Scotland - Away Win

    England v Ireland - Away Win

    Scots win in Rome by comfortable margin. France beat Wales having dispatched Ireland (game of the tournament?). Ireland rallying win against an England side shown up by the experienced class of Ireland who have the expretice to finish off a close game.

    Ireland v Wales - Home Win

    Scotland v England - Home Win

    France v Italy - Hom Win

    Ireland to continue their resurgence with a convincing victory; attacking panache on display from both sides. Scotland hit England as though its 1314. France continue with victory against poor Italians.

    Last day:

    Wales v Italy - Wooden Spoon play-off.

    Ireland v Scotland - Triple Crown play-off - Championship play-off.

    France v England - Championship play-off

    I think Italy may pull one out of the bag and beat a misrable Welsh side. But probably can't avoid wooden spoon. (depends on Scotland/Wales game of second weekend).

    Triple Crown up for Irish and possibly Scots (ditto above). Championship also up for grabs but dependent on scores.

    France going for Championship; England for pride having only won twice.

    Final Table(s):

    France (4 wins)
    Ireland (4 wins)
    Scotand - (4 wins)
    England - (2 wins)
    Wales - (1 win?)
    Italy - last two either way.

    Championship goes to whoever scores the most on aggregate between France, Ireland (and Scotland!!!).

    I don't think thats too irrealistic.

    Games of the Tournament:

    France v Wales for flowing fast open rugby.

    England v Ireland for tension.

    Ireland v Scotland for display of bone-crunching rugby.

    One to avoid:

    Italy v England - boring as hell.

    Player of the Tournament:

    François Trinh-Duc

    Tommy Bowe - top scorer

  • Comment number 11.

    ...Oh and scotland might be the other game we might lose, not because the're a better side, but they will usually play out of their skins in one game and unfortunately i think that might be against england at murrayfield

  • Comment number 12.

    I disagree with your predictions and feel that you are blinded slightly by the love of your country (which we all are). scotland have been on the way up in the last few years but a middle table finsh? they dont have the strength in the squad that the other home nations and france have to compete consistantly aginst them.

    England not having any problems with there set piece? Without their two starting props and julian white injured and if dylan hartley is choosen to start its going to be an area where the opposition will look to attack. if steve thompson gets the nod instead of hartlet theb the oppostion would be looking to disrupt the line out becuase the throw is not one of thompson's strengths

  • Comment number 13.

    I believe all those who simple expect France to run away with the tournement should maybe consider the fact that the lost to England by 30 and new zealand by 40 the last time they met.

    Why are people so ready to agree with John Beattie billing them as joint favourites, yet cannot believe he has placed England with them,a team who have finished second two years running.It seems people can`t differentiate between wanting England to lose and objectively believing they will.

  • Comment number 14.

    open competition and all that. France and England away matches, never the easiest year when that happens....

    Ireland arrogant? You're going to have to explain that one John.

    From supporters sure, following the responses on your blog you get to see some fairly one-eyed and insulting or optimistic responses and this from supporters of all nations from what I see,and I guess thats the game, but you'll have to show me where Ireland, in particular led by Declan Kidney have managed to get up your nose.
    I am a fan and follower of Kidney's teams munster, Ireland. Arrogant was never a word that sprang to mind. Prepared? Focused? Absolutely.

    Its a fairly open season this year but France are the team to beat.

  • Comment number 15.

    I reckon everyone is forgetting the danger Ireland poses, reckoning that it is overrated, looking at the number of tries they scored in comparison to Rance + England, kicking more than other teams, etc.
    Last year was the first stages of the rebuild becoming evident. The team will continue to blend new players and new ideas, becoming stronger all the time. They have huge confidence from beating the Boks, individual successes on Lions tour, and their 2009 undefeated record. Their snatching of a draw from the claws of defeat against the Wallabies shows the maturity coming to that squad.
    As such, I expect more running from dangermen like BOD and Kearney, Bowe and Earls. They have a brilliant back-row. They have the option of 2 world-class flyhalves which not every country can boast! They have one of the most dangerous lineout engines in the world with OConnel at the fore. Importantly they have leadership from 2 of the most charismatic and inspiring captains in world rugby. They draw their men from the 2 giants of club rugby. Both these teams have the skill to make a mess of any team in Europe (look at Munster vs Perpignan in france, and Leinster vs Munster last years semis). Ulster is becoming a dangerous team in their own right alongside them as well. Ireland has been the joint most consistent team in the Northern Hemisphere the last decade, being only a whisker away from 6N glory for every 1 of those years (except maybe late 2007-2008).
    All this adds up.
    I reckon that it is Ireland's year again. The slam is on. It wont be easy - France and England will be hard games. But if Ireland play to their potential - look at their game against France last year, when they had only just begun! - they will be the team to beat. Ireland vs France will determine the competition this year.
    This competition will go down to the wire, but I see the

  • Comment number 16.

    I think this 6N will be alot closer then last year. France are definately a better team now, Ireland are definately better now and England with the import of a few more new zealander rugby players and the brothers from trinadad they should be a better team certainly then the team that played the autumn internationals.

    I think Ireland and France will tie but Ireland to win on points difference!

  • Comment number 17.

    Fordie, About the Ireland arrogant thing, maybe it's the wrong word but they have a strut to them, an air of superiority, and when you watch teams like Munster they look as though they expect to win games.

    It's interesting, as the beauty of the Six Nations is that it's usually unpredictable

    Off to bed


  • Comment number 18.

    I agree it looks potentially a mouthwatering championship & can't wait. Like Fordie I am suprised by your comments about Ireland and presume they were tongue in cheek,or intended to fire up your Irish pals - but you wouldn't do that would you John?! My hunch would be that Ireland and France will be in the shake up at the end with Ireland possibly just shading it. I'm always a bit concerned about their front row though. With O'Connell, O'Driscoll, Kidney and the likes about, no way are they not going to be professional and focussed and I believe will be much stronger at half-back than last year. I am not convinced that Johnno quite has what it takes (yet anyway) to get England mentally right and I think they and Wales will be mid table although both of them capable of anything if they click. Italy will struggle, but cause an upset somewhere along the line. As for me - I'll be passionately screaming for Scotland as ever - frightening the poor labrador to death (the terrier just looks on bemused) and I reckon the boys might just give us a bit of entertainment - if we can get someone to perform with authority and imagination at fly half - we might just surprise a few.
    Whatever happens - lets hope rugby is the winner and eeryone is fit to turn up for work on the Monday morning after the championship is over.

  • Comment number 19.

    "...though they are starting to get a bit arrogant with their Grand Slam."

    Classy comment!

    Good to see you've backed it up with evidence as well!

  • Comment number 20.

    Stormy39 - I love your posts! First of all I'm right with you for the first post but I love the way your more "realistic" post only differs by a 50/50 call on the wales game...


  • Comment number 21.

    "Ireland arrogant" - please explain this one in a little more detail.

    Or is this really a case of Scottish jealousy? I seem to remember a few similar jabs when Wales won the slam a few years back.

    As for this year;

  • Comment number 22.

    Ah John my boy - low key and uncontroversial as ever.
    As usual, I both agree and disagree with you.
    Ireland - you admit that the 'arrogance' that you talk about is premised upon great provincial form and recent international successes. On this basis, don't you think that it's more likely they'll place better than third?
    England - whilst, as you point out, there are no major weaknesses, the real strengths are not completely evident to me either - particularly in comparison to earlier years.

  • Comment number 23.

    Surpirsed to see England up at the top, as you say they have talent and could do it if they got everything together, but I just don't see them manageing to do that.

    My hope is that Scotland will win their home games against France and England, and beat Italy in Rome. That would be a third time in a row against England at Murayfield, and fourth of the last six. We need to make Murrayfield a difficult place to come to again.

    P.S. This is becoming a really good blog JB, great to see you nt just writing interesting and though provoking articles, but also engaging with people who leave comments. Keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 24.

    John John John, you have broken the unwritten rule regarding Rugby on the BBC!! You must not under any circumstances critise Wales or Ireland. You can slate the English, Scots, French etc all you want but you must never say a bad word about the Welsh or Irish. It isnt aloud. Go on 606 and have a look if you dont believe me. You could write a 10,000 word blog about how great both teams are but if just one of those words contained any negetive comment they will be down on you like a tonne of bricks.

  • Comment number 25.

    "and when you watch teams like Munster they look as though they expect to win games"
    You say that almost like it's a bad thing.
    Since when did confidence in your own ability become a character flaw??
    You come across as though you have 'issues' with Irish rugby.

  • Comment number 26.

    Ireland are last year's champions and have come through the Autumn internationals with good results, it's hardly surprising they've got an air of confidence!
    First and second this year will be Ireland and France. French rugby is looking as strong as the Irish game at the moment but think the Irish have a bit more steel and grit about them.
    Can't help feeling there's too much hype and analysis about the England squad, they have some good quality players but very few are world class and as a team they just don't gel. Don't see anything better than 3rd for them.
    Wales are the new France, you just never know which side is going to turn up. All too often it's a side that has no self belief. Likely to be 4th.
    Scotland just don't have the strength in depth to make it through the campaign with any consistency, proved by the Autumn series. 5th Place.
    Italy are going to be this season's whipping boys yet again.....

  • Comment number 27.

    ....arrogant Ireland!!!!!

    very surprising to read this here. This is normally the kind of stuff you see in the forums or comments, and is normally associated with jealousy, hatred or some other negative reason.

    I have heard and read many interviews with players and management from the Irish team. One thing they most definitely are not is arrogant, so it's difficult to see where this is coming from. Is it the usual case of knocking the top dog??

    On the outsome of the 6N, most rugby followers know that the 6N is gernerally very open (who predicted Ireland last year!) From the normal form view Ireland and France appear to have the best chance, but certainly England, Wales and Scotland could also do it depending on what kind of form they run into. Probably the only team you can safely say will not win it is Italy.

  • Comment number 28.

    Without harpin on about this 'arrogant' comment about Ireland, I think it's interesting to note O'Driscolls comment on the bbc interview on the main rugby page....."Ireland are owed nothing"

    Dam him for his 'apparently' obvious arrogance!

  • Comment number 29.

    :-) some of the comments from the english press about Ireland humor me so much. firstly their golden age passes and they won nothing but triple crowns...then when their real golden age just begins and they win a grand slam and are undefeated in over a year they are arrogant because like all top professional teams they expect to win. oh my if thats what arrogance is then every successful team in the world are arrogant.

    so do england expect to lose every game? maybe thats why they losing over 50% of their games! if they went into a game expecting to win then things might be different. winning is a habbit! whether you believe you can or cannot .. you are probably right! so if expecting to win is arrogant then i have been wrong all these years :)

    oh and one other great thing about Ireland that I read on the bbc website is that they are an aging team...and the examples listed were BOD, and POC....they are both thats old... wilkensen is 30, shaw is 36, moody is 32, worsley is 32...and they are all starters for england...but england are just a young team :)

    why cant we just enjoy the rugby and stop trying to beat down a team thats doing well...we all know it goes in cycles...and at the moment Ireland are doing well...fair play...we need all teams in the 6N to do well so we can become better teams and start beating the southern hemisphere more regularly.

  • Comment number 30.

    I am expecting a big improvement from Scotland this six nations, but am only expecting that improvement to yield one, possibly two victories, at least we should be more competitive though, and perhaps more entertaining with it. Ireland have found a winning habit so I expect them to be near the top of table, alng with the French. England and Wales will probably fight it out for mid table superiority, but with some good performances in against New Zealand, I expect Italy to be good at home, so England or Wales could join in the scrap for the wooden spoon.

  • Comment number 31.

    Munstermac, broly amigo and others, sorry about the arrogant Irish thing but, if I have to write what I believe then I have to write what I believe. I don't think that the players say anything out of turn but like the All Blacks there is a strut and an arrogance to Irish rugby at the moment, especially at Munster.

    I have absolutely no issue with Irish rugby at all - their success is deserved and welcome and of all the Six Nations teams they were the first to sort out the breakdown and the use of centres as defending foragers, but with success comes a belief that you should win games, and when you watch Munster nowadays there is real pressure put on a referee by the constant questioning of decisions. Which is what the All Blacks do as well. The All Blacks take the laws to the limit and then pressurise the referee because they usually win.

    George Carlin - very possibly Ireland could win it, but I have taken a guess based on the fact that nobody is top dog for ever, which is the beauty of the competition.

    And just in case anybody thinks I am being negative, I am not. We have the greatest game on earth and I believe that we get on with each other and, for the record, the English are playing with humility both on the pitch and with their off field utterances.

    No hatred, no jealousy, just trying to make sense of what I see.

    And if France get it right they could blow the whole thing wide open.

    Stormy 39 - you should get your own blog!


  • Comment number 32.

    Everyone seems to forget that England actually finishes 2nd in last years tournament.
    Although Ireland are favourites and rightly so, i think that England or France will prove the main tests as they will have the home advantage.

    On paper the Welsh should do well but they seemed to have built any momentum since thier Grand Slam.

    The Scots will be hard to beat, but i cannot see them upsetting too many apple carts.

    The Italians played well against the All Blacks in the Autumn and may be a handfull at home.

  • Comment number 33.

    I am sorry England are not going to get joint first. For a team that kicks, kicks, kicks, kicks wins some turnover ball (surprisingly) and then kicks are not going to share the title. Too slow too laborious and too unadventurous. Dont write off Scotland after the Autumn tests for a surprise if they manage to click. Ireland hmmm we shall see its pressure time.

  • Comment number 34.

    simple really - its between Ireland and France for first; Wales and England for 3rd; and Scotland and Italy for 5th - probably in that order.

    I think the biggest question will be - can Ireland win back to back slams?

  • Comment number 35.

    I am Irish, let's get that out of the way first of all. I don't think anyone will do the grand slam this year. I think the level of competitiveness is building in the 6N again. With the exception of Italy all the teams on their day 'could' beat the other, though I think Scotland will struggle to win against Ireland (Just how I feel the sides match up).

    I think Ireland and France will both win four games, the French will lose to the Scots in their opener and Ireland will lose to France. I find it very hard to make the calls for the mid table, but in the end I think England will manage third ahead of Wales and Scotland (points difference separating those two). I think the size of the England squad and the fear of what MJ will do too them will see them through some very tight games. Italy, well let's call it a development year...

    In the end I am really looking forward to the 6N. I think the Ireland boys know how special last year was for them and for the country and they are under no illusion about how tough it would be to repeat that success this year. No one in Ireland thinks they have any right to win the GS, 6N or the Heine for that matter, but we'll all be cheering our teams on while enjoying a few pints of the black stuff regardless of the results.


  • Comment number 36.

    How can any of you see through the fog that is the first weekend to make such positive statements?

    England v Wales - Wales i think will have the winning of this up front, thier backs on a whole are not being as creative as a team as they can be for thier clubs and were poor during the autumn internationals. England have some old heads back and Johny is a true midfield General. Wales have a fantastic defence (Lets not count the Aussie game!) Its too close to call i think but who ever does win will be set up to go on and have a great competition and the looser will come 4th

    Scotland v France - I would like to see Scotland win this after greatly improved performances during the Autumn. They will have the home advantage which must be worth a headstart. If they are in the lead at half time i think they could grind out a win. The French team have class and game winners all over the park. If they score early i think it will be game over for Scotland. Still too close to call.

    Ireland v Italy - Italy took another large step to being up there with the other 6N teams last year, they will be looking for not one but two scalps i believe. Scotland and my beloved Wales could have thier cards marked depenant on results from previous games (The confidence and feel good factor that goes with a win can not be underestimated) Ireland at home will be too big an ask for them though and Ireland will walk away easy winners. This will set them up for the away game in France and a real crunch match.

    zxDaveM I think is spot on.........would you put your house on it though? It will be much clearer come Sunday Evening. Good luck all

  • Comment number 37.

    Favourite rugby moment numbers two and three.

    Gareth Edwards used to say that he went for a walk in Edinburgh before an international in his Wales rugby kit and stopped to look in a window. He noticed that a crowd of Welsh fans gathered slowly around him, all pretending not to have seen him. Then one fan plucked up courage. "Excuse me Gareth." he said. "But are you up here for the rugby?"

    On a playing front I was on Murrayfield, in a quiet part of the game, having a quiet game in blue. I heard someone shout: "For goodness sake Beattie, do something...." Crushing, crushing.........

    Off to make a chicken curry then go coaching


  • Comment number 38.

    This is a difficult one this season as apart from Ireland I haven't seen any country cover themselves with glory during the Autumn internationals. Does this mean that Ireland will win the 6N - I really don't know! Each team have got their own strengths and weaknesses.

    England - They are extremely strong in the forwards but like all English sides in the last 20 years (Apart from 2-3 when the won the world cup) are over reliant on their forwards and their backs don't seem to have the necessary cutting edge and are probably lacking that spark in the half backs. The days have now gone where England can over power sides. In my view will come 3rd.

    France - Potentially the best side in the 6 nations. Powerful forwards, great backs but are trying to play like England and are ignoring the flair that they have. Also who knows which French side is going to turn up. Sticking my neck out here - 1st (by points difference).

    Wales - As a welsh supporter it really pains me to say it but they are not looking good. They have the power in the forwards (especially the front row) to trouble sides and they also have good talented backs. But I think Jerry Guscott is right there is something wrong in the mindset and that combined with a lack of a quality scrum half will cause problems. Prediction 5th.

    Italy - Good forwards, poor backline with no imagination or drive. At the moment this is still a shadow of the side that ran England so close in the late 90s before they were admitted to the 5/6 nations. Potentially could cause problems if teams keep the ball tight - Prediction - Wooden Spoon. No wins!!!!

    Scotland - Improving - Showing more self belief. Excellent back row and good back 3. Concerned about the decision making at fly half and inside centre. Can be too conservation however I feel that they could surprise somebody this season. 4th!

    Ireland - Great from the 2nd row backwards. I have never been a fan of the bald wonder - John Hayes, looks can be deceiving but I always think he looks a bit out of his depth. But he has got nearly 100 caps so I could be missing something. What is positive from an Irish perspective is that there are players coming through who can push the older players - Stringer is now in the 2nd string. I still feel that the main weakness is in the scrum and I think a powerful front row could cause problems. Somebody will beat them this season but I'm not sure who - 2nd on points difference.

    I'm sure there are a lot of people who will disagree with me and Mr Beattie - Isn't arrogance a sign of a good team? You look at the England team of the early noughties - they were extremely arrogant and they won the world cup. However I think that you were talking maybe about overconfidence - which I think they might be guilty of (Which is why I think they will lose 1 game!!!).

  • Comment number 39.

    I think this is the most difficult 6 nations to predict ever. England, France, Wales or Ireland are all potential winners. I can't wait for it to begin. I just wish they would extend the tournament to include home and away matches against all teams so that we can truly find the best team as playing at home is such an advantage.

  • Comment number 40.

    Some interesting predictions JB!

    Here's my 10p (I am a Scotland fan BTW)...

    England - so much potential, yet to fulfill. Front-row has been crippled by injuries and losing Tom Croft a blow. Rest of pack is solid though and Wilko is as good as ever again. All depends on if the backs can ignite and the pack can cut out the silly penalties/defensive lapses that happened in the autumn.

    France - look the strongest on paper and fixtures are in their favour. Club sides have shown great form in the Heineken Cup, beat South Africa in the autumn and are spoilt for choice in the backs. As ever it all depends which France turns up....

    Ireland - on for another strong showing. Soild pack - arguably the best back-row in the tournament. BOD in great form again and have real competition at fly-half with Sexton and ROG which should mean they can vary their game more. Front-row is a problem however and could be exposed in the scrum.

    Italy - looking to make up for a poor showing last year after a few seasons of steady progress. Some positive results in club rugby (Treviso beating Perpignan a real coup) and ran NZ close in autumn. Bad news is there is no Parisse and there is no natural leader to step into this role.

    Scotland - good results in autumn and club sides in good form in Magners. Scrum is good and solid and have some real pace out wide. However same problems still exist - too many errors in the backs, real problems converting chances into tries, prone to getting on wrong side of ref. Fixtures probably not in their favour this year - perhaps the autumn was another false dawn?

    Wales - hmmm where to begin? So much class in the backs, unbeatable on their day. Great front row and AWJ seems to be finally sorting out their troublesome lineout. So many problems though - no Phillips is a huge blow, losing Lee Byrne against England could be crucial and they seem to have lost the way to the tryline in recent games. First game is huge - if they beat England could go all the way.

    My prediction: France, Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, Italy

  • Comment number 41.

    I am amazed that Enland still entertain selecting Jonny Wilkinson.As great as he undoubtedly was he has been ravaged by injury.He was great when he had experienced players around him taking the pressure off him, but he has not developed into that leader who can mentor less experienced players in the way that a Catt or a Guscott might have done. This is possibly because injuries have meant he is never in the team for long spells to gain influence within the squad and keep match sharp, but surely in such a pivotal position, they would be far better off with an emerging talent who has a better chance of a prolonged injury free run for the team to gel around rather than an injury prone player in decline. As an old donkey forward though, it was always comforting turning upon a Saturday afternoon knowing that you had a flyhalf behind you who had a dependable boot and stood up and was counted in defence - and boy didn't Jonny always do that in his pomp!!

  • Comment number 42.

    Persius 'I am amazed that Enland still entertain selecting Jonny Wilkinson'

    What tosh! Ive been watching him play in France and the guy is firing on all cylinders. I wish he was not playing this Saturday but im Welsh. I dont think England would have won half the games in recent times or the world cup without him. An English team without Johny is a bit of a toothless tiger, all muscle, ready to pounce but without the killer edge. There is just no one who can take his place at the mo

  • Comment number 43.

    bert69 - I confess I haven't seen him in a French Club shirt, but performing at International level is another ball game. I agree that in his prime and with experienced players around him he was a great player & key to England winning the world cup. But for me he is too high an injury risk these days and I think other players subconsciously overshadowed by his reputation and in is absence would grow in stature as International players themselves.

  • Comment number 44.

    Ireland vs Italy
    close for 40 mins, Ireland to pull away in the second have. win by 20 points.

    England vs Wales
    will be very tight. although England are at home i feel Wales are more of a settled team. Wales by less than 5.

    Scotland vs France
    Scotland will be fired up and should they compete for 80 minutes they have a chance! France will not be complacent and in the end their superiority will tell. France by 10 to 14.

  • Comment number 45.

    Persius - I dont think there is that much difference between a top flight club team these days and an international team, idd even go as far as to say that some of the top flight club teams would be a test for most international teams. Its good though that we can agree to disagree in our much love sport without reverting to the antics of some of the so called football fans. I wish you luck (but not too much of it!!!) for Saturday and will raise a glass to your health when the final whistle blows whatever the result........... i just hope my pints not half full of tears! lol

  • Comment number 46.

    Ive just seen the England team for Saturday and it looks really well balanced, the best its been for some time. Good call to bring Tait in, oodles of talent and still young, added plus is that he wont have to worry about Henson using him as a handbag this year! It may be a complete role reversal from previous years but i think Wales may have to stick the ball up thier jumpers and let the forwards do the donkey work for the majority of the game. Its been quite some time since i felt that we had the match or even better of England up front. Im off to revise my Fantasy 6N team!

  • Comment number 47.

    I think France will win, with Ireland running them close. I think Scotland will show improvement too, but depends on the 10 position working.

    My favourite 5 Nations tournament, being a Scot, was 1984. Only missed the game in Dublin and ended up having a few beers in Angel Hotel, Cardiff with some of the players thanks to Bill Cuthbertson's intervention. Halcyon days.

  • Comment number 48.

    If I were a Scot and having watched Ireland win the Grandslam, I would find even the mention of it as arrogant too, but only if I were a Scot!
    Looking at the Six Nations games between Ireland and Scotland, the unnecessary fouls and fighting were an embarassment at best! In the same championships Scotland usually just seemed to roll over and lose against England without raising their voice!
    I find it a pity that Scotland cannot produce the right attitude against England, like in the days of home nations soccer games! It would make the 6 nations more interessing and give Scotland a hell of a better chance. The Scottish do have what it takes otherwise!

  • Comment number 49.

    bert69 - Cheers Bert, I will raise a toast to you win lose or draw. I wish you luck for Saturday, surely you don't begudge us a win against France do you!? (I'm a Scotland supporter.)

  • Comment number 50.

    Sorry Mr Beattie, Sir, for usurping your blog.

    What do you think of my predictions - i really believe i may be close to the real thing?

    It annoys me how ignorant of the Scottish game people are outside Scotland. They see one result against Australia and think - lucky win for Scotland - flash in the pan - it ll never happen again - type stuff.
    People seem to forget that both France and England have not one at Murrayfield since 2004!!! I personally would be very disappointed if we did not - i was about to say "take both scalps of" but i feel thats not appropriate we are better than that now - win well against both France and England.

    Odd question now - you may not know but do the Scottish side still call the referee "Sir"?

    As for memorable moments of the Six Nations:

    1. An Irish fan in Murrayfield was standing up in the stands making a complete spectacle waving a flag etc. The crowd behind him were getting a wee bit upset as we couldn't see much. A Scot lost it and stood up to shout at the Irishman; "Sit down you ruddy Spudmuncher!" Classic.

    2. I remember you used to be able to (might still be able to) buy headphones etc for the games refereeing comentary. There was a break in play against England during which Scotland had gone into a huddle. Gordon Bulloch could be heard offering rousing words on the referees line from the middle of the group. "Alright lads. Lets show them how we do it in Scotland!"

    Last question - when do you think another nation will ask to join the Six Nations? Teams like Romania and Georgia are of a similar standard to Italy when she joined. Plus with teams like Russia improving fast. In the next five years the numbers will rise - me thinks!?

  • Comment number 51.

    "According to the International Rugby Board website, England has more than two million registered rugby players, France has a quarter of a million, Ireland 150,000, Italy 60,000, Wales 46,000, and Scotland 32,000."

    I just thought I'd mention that Ireland's playing population in 2003 was 53,000. The current crop of players we have came from that number. It really just goes to show how popular Rugby in Ireland is becoming that it's playing population swelled by 100,000 in 7 years. It makes you wonder how much better Ireland should be in 10 years time. The future looks bright indeed.

  • Comment number 52.

    John, very interesting blog that has produced some interesting responses but can I point out that the Six Nations Championship can no longer be shared so there will only be one Champion regardless. As for the debate might just add to it !

    I'm an Irish supporter but I can somewhat see where you are coming from with the "arrogant" statement. I think the same thing applied to the Welsh team that one the Slam a couple of years ago. I believe they crossed the line between confident and arrogant and paid the price in last year’s tournament and I do have a slight worry that the same thing could happen to Ireland this time around. Here’s how i see it.

    My biggest worry for this year is the fixture list we've got, and I think this will have a bigger impact on our final placing than the question of arrogance in the team. Italy in the first round will be bruising but with all respect to Italy we should have the game won after 60mins and can rest some of our key players for a week later in Paris. This game without meaning to state the obvious will be key to Irelands chances. We don't have the best record in Paris by a long way and I personally think we could be dealing with a wounded animal as Scotland could come out on top a week earlier against les bleus at Murray Field. Then we come up against England away from home two weeks later. And cliché as it is this tournament is all about momentum and England could easily be coming into this one with two straight wins, top of the table and full of confidence.

    My Call: Ireland's title hopes rest on results of the first weekend. Need France to beat Scotland and Wales beat England for them to have a shout at the Championship. If not then the Slam is out of the question, 3 out of 5 for the Irish.

    Watch a lot of Mangers league and Scottish Rugby is coming on. Have a lot of young players and the likes of the Lamont brothers and Danielli could really shine in this championship. I can see the Scots turning over France on the first day. The French don't like to travel to Murray field and there is a real air of confidence about Scottish rugby right now. I don't think this is there year but watch the space.

    My Call: Will start the Championship strong but will fade as the tournament goes on. 2 out of five for the Scots.

    Hard to know what Wales team we will see this year. No doubt they have the talent as we've seen in 2006 and 2008 but they seem to be in a stagnant state right now and don't see them getting out of it in this tournament either.

    My Call : 2 out of five for the welsh.

    This could very well be there year. A favorable draw that could easily see them go into the final game with that favourite word of all 6N commentators, momentum. If there current squad stay injury free and Johno answers the questions a few doubters have thrown his way this could be their year.

    My Call: Four out of five for the English

    Will do what the French always do, start really poorly but i can see them winning every game after this.

    My Call: 4 out of five for the French

    "One day Italian rugby will overtake Scottish and Welsh rugby, of that I am convinced. But not yet" Agree with that john but it’s not looking good for them this year. Could get some heavy defeats on the road too.

    My Call: 0 out of five for the Italians

    But Hope im wrong on the irish prediction . . best of luck to all and can't wait to get things going

  • Comment number 53.

    I'd be with Ireland all the way this year on both class and form but to go to Paris and Twickers makes it the most difficut of grand slams.
    Wales could sparkle, but this is less likely without Phillips at 9 which is where the strength of this team has previously come from. Scotland and England are putting their hopes in the coaching talent rather than pitch performance so I am not convinced that either has it together to dominate for the duration. Italy will make up the numbers and steal a couple of points in Rome again this year recieving both Wales and Scotland who have been fallible in the past.

    As much as I'd like Wales to click again, I'm going for a triple crown and championship on scores for Ireland, with upsets from Wales beating England on early tries then toe to toe penalties, England bullying France into submission up front for Jonny to drop the goals, France beating Ireland at the death in the fast and furious game of the tournament, Scotland beating a frustrated Wales in an ugly in front of a disapointed home crowd and Italy beating Scotland in the sunshine of Roma. All sounds good but probably means that we will be counting points rather than watching matches on the final weekend, but if Wales kick off with back to back wins... who knows!

    Favorite moments?
    1. The look on Rory Underwoods face as Iuean Evans kicked the ball from under his nose after approaching at warp speed.
    2. Iuean beating seven Scots and a referee with one step to score under the posts.
    3. Scott Quinell handing off the whole French team with his left hand on a break down the blindside to score by the corner flag.
    4. Clive Norling reminding Peter Winterbottom of his position and place in life.
    5. Scott Gibbs sending 15 English players and 70000 supporters the wrong way at Wembley Stadium with a single step to score at the death.
    6. Erika Roe reminding us that there is not all moves at Twickerham are boring and predictable.
    7. Paul Thorburn kicking a penalty at the Arms Park from a Scotish infringement somewhere in Newport.
    8. Bergamasco reminding forwards everywhere that nice hair is not reason enough to picked in the backs.
    9. Finlay Cawlder standing firm against the English until the cavalry arrived.
    10. Brian Moore becaming even handed in his commentary - though I am still waiting for the moment that Eddie Buttler becomes interesting!

  • Comment number 54.


  • Comment number 55.

    Stormy 39 - I don't know if the players still call the referee Sir, but I will try to find out. Methinks it's not a bad strategy at all and doesn't wind the referee up. As for headphones, I think they still sell something called reflink, but the best way to get all that stuff is to listen to BBC Radio Scotland 810 medium wave. And I am all for an expanded European competition

    Fullbackjack great point, if Irish rugby has swelled by 100000 in seven years that is fantastic. Scotland has a terrible habit of not backing its sport at all - years and years of neglect from politicians and local authorities

    Mixerplus, great stuff

    Andrew Owen, you love the game......I think that Evans try had Bill McLaren talking about Merlin the magician too, I can still see it. Come to think of it one of my greatest memories was of being in Murrayfield as a school boy when they had the record crowd and John Taylor won with the last kick of the game. I will never forget being on those schoolboy benches.

    And I played in that Paul Thorburn game, 86, we scored the tries, he kicked the kicks, Wales won. Erika Roe - where is she now?
    OwainGlyndwr, aw no....

    Just back from a jog, feeling good, on the motorbike for a blast later in the sub zero....


  • Comment number 56.

    Oh well, what can an Italian say? No Parisse, only two games at home, Scotland improving a lot, wooden spoon last year... Every hope seems unrealistic.
    But I would still watch our match against England. They played poorly in Nov and may suffer our scram. Who knows? Could that not be the upset of all times?

  • Comment number 57.

    An Irish point of view:
    The easiest first, Italy.
    They are doing better than before, and the introduction of their teams into the club competitions will help them alot in the future, but this wont be they're year. It's hard to see them winning any matches really.

    Wales/Scotland: Scotland have come on a good bit in the last few years and Wales have depreciated enough to make them roughly equal. Both have a shot at the championship if they can put together some good performances, but a grand slam is probably out of the question. Scotland in particular will need others to step up to the performances that Scott Paterson has been producing in the last few years.

    England/France/Ireland: These 3 are hard to separate really, England despite alot of losses since Martin Johnson took over, they certainly werent an easy team to beat last year in the six nations. If they can clear up the penalty count compared to last year and play as emphatically in Twickenham as they did against France last year, their grand slam chances could easily come down to having a good night in Paris.
    Ireland: Certainly a fine chance of a slam, but back to back wins in Paris and Twickenham sounds abit too far fetched really. A poor (but victorious) result in Croke Park against Italy could be exactly what they need to focus the mind for their next 2 games. If Ireland can take 3 wins in 3, you have to bet on them for the grand slam again.
    France: As always, they're up there and definitely in with a chance. With both Ireland and England coming to Paris this year, they probably have the best chance of winning a grand slam. But (and it's a pretty big one) They will need to keep away from their penchant of having at least 1 awful game per competition, any of the home nations could put them away if they dont perform.

  • Comment number 58.

    And eh... my apologies, "Chris Paterson" not Scott..

  • Comment number 59.

    John, I have got to tell someone. Just watched the BBC Tribute to Bill McLaren. What a wwonderful tribute to the great man. I thought it captured the man suberbly. It fills me with humility to watch, stirred the soul and I almost - ALMOST - embarrassed myself by shedding a tear in front of the family. Well done BBC and John Inverdale - another man I hugely admire as a sports presenter. But, of course, there could only ever be one Bill. God rest his Soul.

  • Comment number 60.

    Scotland win the grand slam!!!!!!!
    Well....I can dream.....but what I really think the final table will look like is...
    France, Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Italy.
    Ireland and England were victorious but both under-par today and have a lot more to give as the tournament continues.
    France have been very strong in recent tests, but will face a Scotland team growing in confidence on their own midden. I predict the first upset of the tournament here. This will stir the French passion and push them to victory over the other nations.
    Wales and Italy were disappointing, but they say never underestimate a wounded animal! Watch this space.
    Or I could be talking complete gobbledygook!!! All I want is to view some fast, flowing rugby and see plenty of try scoring.
    I must say John, I enjoy reading your blogs very much! But my memory of you will always be as a nutty back rower. My favourite moment had to be when you gave England lock Wade Dooley a cheeky shove off the ball after KO and he simply wagged his finger at you. Classic! 1984 I think?!? It's great to see your son back in the squad, he's a chip off the old block.
    P.S. Am I the only lady rugby fan here??

  • Comment number 61.


    You can't be the only lady rugby fan here, if so go and get some more please.

    The Wade Dooley thing was an accident, and 1986 and thanks for saying that about my son, he has had a hard time of it but he is going well just now.

    Persius, I am sure that your blog entry has been noted but if I see John I will tell him you said that. Lots of fans have said great things about Bill and the minute's silence on Sunday was poignant



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