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Who will win latest Six Nations passion play?

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Bryn Palmer | 07:00 UK time, Friday, 5 February 2010

"The players are not computers to be programmed. Passion and emotion is still hugely important. It always will be and should be. If it goes out of the game, there is no joy in it. That is what it is all about."

Any ideas as to who uttered those words on the eve of this year's RBS Six Nations Championship?

Yep, you guessed it, that old merchant of mirth himself, synonymous with all things joyful in rugby matters, one Martin Osborne Johnson.

As the man in charge of an England team whose coaches acknowledged they were overly "prescriptive" during a dismal autumn, these are surely encouraging words for supporters of a red rose persuasion.

But before images come to mind of England players pumped up on John Bull, gambolling around Twickenham laying waste to their Six Nations rivals, it should be noted Johnson was not specifically referring to his team alone.

He was answering a general question which served as a timely reminder why we love the Six Nations.

Jones and BorthwickWales captain Ryan Jones takes his side to Twickenham to face Steve Borthwick's England in their opening game

Amid all the video analysis, fitness regimes, defensive systems and tactical play-books, it was reassuring to hear that this more visceral stuff still matters in Test rugby, especially in a tournament - described by France coach Marc Lievremont as "la plus belle competition du monde" (the most beautiful in the world) - in which patriotic fervour and historic rivalry are so woven into its fabric and enduring drama.

Johnson was not alone in his view. Other coaches were similarly effusive when I broached the subject with them at last week's Six Nations launch in London.

Nick Mallett, the engaging and articulate coach of Wooden Spoon favourites Italy, noted how his players' evident passion, even in the face of considerable odds, had persuaded 80,000 people to come and support them when the All Blacks came to Milan's San Siro stadium in November.

"It was against all precedents, extraordinary and unique," he recalled. "Normally Italians will only support winning teams and we'd been on a losing streak (a run of 13 straight defeats ended when they beat Samoa in their final autumn Test).

"But the public had seen something on the pitch that gave them a lot of pride. They realised we were boxing outside our division and how hard we were trying.

"Every team has to find an identity so that it plays for something greater than itself. A team that understands that performs better."

Andy Robinson, the new boy on the Six Nations coaching block this year even if he had two previous campaigns in charge of England, is perhaps most pertinent on the subject in light of his past and present employers.

"I think national pride and passion is very important," said the patriotic Englishman now in charge of their oldest enemies. "It is a warrior sport, and you are searching for the toughest competitors who will put their bodies on the line. We saw that against Australia in November and how winning inspired the nation."

Robinson was less forthcoming on how he might feel about putting one over the country for whom he won eight caps and later formed part of a World Cup-winning coaching team before an unsuccessful two-year spell in the top job ended in late 2006.

But Scotland v England on 13 March at Murrayfield is just one of the intriguing sub-plots to this year's championship, which bursts forth again in Dublin, London and Edinburgh this weekend.

So who will have prevailed when France and England bring this year's proceedings to a close at approximately 10.30pm Parisian time on 20 March?

Johnson reckons "anyone saying who is going to win the title would be a pretty brave guy".

Well, I'm not making any claims on the bravery front, but I'll give it a go anyway.

You could make a case - and please do - for any one of Ireland, Wales, France or England winning the title.

Indignant Scots may ask 'did you not see us beat Australia in November?' To which the flippant answer would be 'yes, and it was marvellous, but if Mat Giteau had kicked that conversion, it would have been the latest in a long line of brave Scottish defeats'.

Sean LamontSean Lamont scores a try as Scotland enjoy a notable 20-16 win over France 2006

But I prefer to look at other evidence. Scotland have won just one match in each of the last three Six Nations and scored 14 tries in that time, less than one a game.

The fixture list has parallels with 2006, when Frank Hadden launched his tenure by beating France at home and Scotland won three games in a season (England also at home, Italy away) for the only time in Six Nations history, equalling their best finish of third.

Despite Robinson's bullish prognosis that "we are in control of our destiny... we have got five games that I believe we have the ability to win", emulating Hadden's feat and finishing third - one place better than he managed in his two Six Nations campaigns with England - would be a superb achievement.

My own tip for the title are France, also the bookies' favourites but a very dangerous team to back. It wouldn't surprise me to see them lose at Murrayfield in their opener on Sunday.

But in the tight games that will unfold among the 'big four', France are at home in two of their three, and I think this year's champions will be whoever prevails in Paris a week on Saturday when the French host Ireland.

If the Irish, assuming they beat Italy in the tournament opener, can win in Paris for the first time since Brian O'Driscoll's stunning hat-trick of tries 10 years ago, they will be well on the way to defending their crown.

They may even become the first team in the Six Nations period to achieve back-to-back Grand Slams, and only the sixth in the history of the championship.

For England and Wales, it is impossible to overstate the importance of Saturday's encounter at Twickenham. To the victor goes crucial momentum, the prospect of making it two out of two the following week (England in Rome, Wales at home to Scotland) and a real crack at the title. To the vanquished, recovery is possible, but mid-table or worse beckons.

Another factor, harder to gauge, is the lingering effect of last summer's exhilarating Lions tour of South Africa. Is it asking too much of British and Irish players to peak again so soon?

In the three seasons that have followed Lions tours in the professional era, France have won the title (1998, 2002, 2006) each time. A mere statistical coincidence? Or a certain logic to it?

Wales, particularly, and England were both hit by injuries to their Lions contingent in the autumn and should be stronger for their return in most cases. Ireland's Lions have avoided injuries and been well managed by the provinces, but will they remain physically and mentally fresh over the next six weeks?

"It is a challenge," conceded Johnson, a three-time Lions tourist, "especially after the high quality of the games you have had to play. It is going to affect the teams and you have to deal with it. You need to be mentally strong. If you think you are tired, you are tired."

And that, presumably, is when the passion, pride and patriotism takes over. Bring it on.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    As an American with Welsh ancestry (and family name) and an Irish wife I would not normally be seen to support an England team but my prediction is indeed that England will win the 6 nations this year though it will be a close call between them and Ireland. Wales are hurting esp. with 2 of their 3 starting front-row missing Saturday's match with England and France are way too erratic to put together a Grand Slam. Though I would still love Ireland to do it again. With Kearney, Bowe, D'arcy, O'Driscoll, Heaslip, Flannery, and O'Connell they definitely have the best performing stars right now.

  • Comment number 2.

    We all know that Ireland, Wales and France will be there or thereabouts at the end of the tournament. What we do not know is whether England will throw off their shackles and actually play to their potential? If they do then momentum could really swing England's way and playing Ireland and Wales at home could be a real bonus and momentum is critical in this tournament. For some reason England have in the past generally played quite well in Paris and come that final match it may just go down to the wire. Equally if England underperform badly again we will be looking for a new coach.

  • Comment number 3.

    Indignant Scots probably wont be asking why you're not tipping them, especially after using the Autumn internationals as the basis for your argument. Yet then you somehow tip England, did you not see the Autumn internationals??? Typical English based media arrogance, just how long exactly since England had a worthy side?

  • Comment number 4.

    If Wales win on Saturday, they could go on to win the championship, England can not win the 6N even if they do. So Wales have to be favourites for that game and likely to lead the table at halfway. Ireland are the only team to show any consistency, coming off the back of an unbeaten year and having won several very tight games in that time.
    The home form of the Scottish teams in the Heineken Cup shows how tough it will be for France on Sunday and likely to be a low scorer.
    Basically I don't know who is gonna win but Stephen Ferris will be the player of the tournament (assuming he shakes off the injury). Brilliant player

  • Comment number 5.

    good blog again bryn. The passion is the most important thing in Rugby and being able to share that with the other nations. Chances of Ireland getting the slam this year are low, especially with the two most difficult away trips. France I think will win the championship, but no slam, potential for England to come 2nd again with a victory on Saturday a welcome boost.

  • Comment number 6.

    RE: #3 - Faddysboots
    I reread the blog just to check I had not missed something and I'm pretty sure Bryn has tipped France with Ireland as his second. He says of Wales and England 'To the victor goes crucial momentum, the prospect of making it two out of two the following week (England in Rome, Wales at home to Scotland) and a real crack at the title.' Hardly evidence of 'Typical English based media arrogance'.

    If it's his dismisal of Scotlands prospects that grates with you why not explain why you disagree rather than posting a comment which is 'typical of celt based chippyness'......please note deliberate use of ironic sweeping generalisation.

  • Comment number 7.

    I might not go as far to say that Scotland will win the 6 Nations but I have a feeling that surprise a lot of people this time round. Also I feel tipping France to win is basically akin to sitting on the fence.

  • Comment number 8.

    Woop woop it's 6 Nations time again. Fantastic to see the blogs back, looking forward to plenty of lively debate and tears over the next few weeks.

    The competition this year looks set to be excellent, and some brilliant players are coming into form - should be fantastic tournement. I'm pretty realistic about my predictions, this time around so here goes. Ireland's win over France was critical to our success last season, I can't see the same thing happening again though, particularly with the match in Paris. I also think that no one will get the Grand Slam, with the Championship going between France, Ireland and possibly England. Favourites have to be France. England have to many decent backs, not to click sooner or later. Wales would be up there, but too many injuries will affect their chances, especially against England tomorrow. Loss of Gethin Jenkins is a big blow, and the Welsh had better hope he's back pretty soon. Same really for us Irish concerning Ferris. I'm hoping though Declan is saving him for the Paris game.

  • Comment number 9.

    Good blog, agree personally this most of the assessment and likewise for me France have to be favourites but as ever, which side will turn up? I think they're gaining the reliability they've frequently lacked in the past and I'll be following the France matches with interest.

    Re Matthew Smith, "If Wales win on Saturday, they could go on to win the championship, England can not win the 6N even if they do"..... how on earth do you work that out? Surely whoever wins will be 1:1 rather than 0:1 and so on track for a solid finish and potential win? Same would be true of Scotland, Italy, Ireland and France. To blindly say England can't win the tournament even if they win their opener seems flawed on many levels, not least of them being mathmatics and similarly shows a complete lack of respect. I'm looking forward to each of the openers, and what I love about the 6n is that each side is capable of beating any other... against the odds or not. Good luck to all and cheers!

  • Comment number 10.

    RE #6, Crispen. Correct. In fact the article goes on to mention that he thinks that it will come down to the winner of the France/Ireland game. No mention of England winning the title, or any English bias/arrogance in the article.

  • Comment number 11.

    A good blog Bryn - national pride and passion are two key elements of the game but lets not overstate the point. As a welshman, i like to think that we play with both of these components in nearly every game but it is sometimes an easy fallback excuse to claim that although we lost we gave it our all.
    This is aimed more at the coaching staff of the various teams than the players themselves - at the end of the day, even if both teams play with the utmost passion, the team with the better tactics, decision-making (and players!) will usually end up on top.
    Anyways, as to the golden question of who will win, I shall for once join Martin Johnson's camp and claim that anyone who predicts the winner is a brave man - can't see there being a Grand Slam but if pushed would shout France (#7 definitely sitting on the fence) or Ireland.

    Good luck to all, hope its another great tournament.

  • Comment number 12.

    Don't you think chosing France is a bit of a cop-out??

    I have just gone though the records of the five/six nations (going back to 1940's to present) and have found that the french are the most successful team!! Because they win twice or more every decade and when they are not winning they are coming second, they very rarely come third and almost never come 4th or lower!

    So the reason its a cop-out is because the past generation have always seen the french doing well, (my father says, "always fear the french") so automatically the past generation think they are going to do well. Looking at there history they problely will do well

    but

    It's a safe bet, dont sit on the fence. France are the team that win when everybody else are playing poorly. I feel apart from Italy everybody has the possiblilty of playing well, so france cant win. (It's locial in my mind...)

    Ireland to win the Grand Slam again, or England to win it!!!

  • Comment number 13.

    RE #6&#10 - couldn't agree more - faddysboots, read the article again, sounds like a Scot desperate to bash the English no matter what...

    I think it's fairly clear that Ireland and France start as the favourites with England and Wales in the second tier.

    England were poor in the Autumn, but crucially have Flutey and Armitage back in the back line, so expect them to be much better. Wales have lost Jenkins, Phillips, Peel, Rees and Halfpenny, it will be very very tough for them to beat England on Saturday with that many starters out, their strength in depth is not great. At full strength I would back them, but otherwise not.

    France look dangerous, and if they beat Scotland and can maintain a consistent team selection they will be extremely hard to beat. The cliche of which French team will turn up still rings true, but I would back them for the title. The fact that they play Ireland and England at home will be crucial for them. Jauzion is back to his best and will boss the midfield, and the French back row is formidable.

    Scotland will be very hard to beat at home, but weak away from home. That has always been their weakness. Andy Robinson has made them a very strong side defensively, but their attacking tactic is to get Chris Patterson with a tee in his hands, and against a disciplined side they'll come unstuck.

    Ireland looked very good in the Autumn, and this group of players has only another year or so together before they'll be too old, and they're a fantastic side. Leaders throughout, bags of experience, and very hard to beat at Croke Park. Ireland vs. France in Paris will be a fantastic game.

    Italy....well without Parisse where can they go? A Rugby League player at 10 will be very difficult to make work. Can he boss an international union game? I would think not, but we shall see.

    I can't wait for tomorrow!!

  • Comment number 14.

    Ireland, France, Scotland, Wales, England, Italy.

  • Comment number 15.

    Faddysboots thankly doesn't represent the majority of Scottish rugby fan opinion (neither do I probably). There is nothing biased about Bryn's blog. Seems pretty fair and objective to me. Ireland and France have the nudge on England and Wales who are both struggling to find consistency, mainly due to long injury lists. Scotland did well to beat Australia in the autumn but were lucky. The game against Argentina was a better insight of what we can expect from Scotland. We might cause a few upsets but until we find a top class #10 we ain't gonna score many tries or win games regularly. To win 3 out of 5 would be a major success but sadly I think we'll be battling to avoid the spoon. Bring it on!

  • Comment number 16.

    #12 - whilst your argument may appear 'locial', I'm a bit unsure as to what your point actually is. You criticise people for backing the French despite noting in your own words that they are the most successful team in the competition.

    They play consistently well despite suffering the odd poor game - leading to the oft quoted comment of 'it depends which french team turns up'.

    They have a clinical element that only ireland can match at the minute and this has to make them the front runner for the tournament.

    Whilst this may seem like sitting on the fence it would appear to be the more logical decision.

    However, really hope logic goes out the window and we get a cracker of a tournament which goes right to the wire - very interested to see how England do under MJ's switch of tactics, just hope they only find their feet after tomorrow's game!!

  • Comment number 17.

    3. At 08:59am on 05 Feb 2010, faddysboots wrote:
    "Indignant Scots probably wont be asking why you're not tipping them, especially after using the Autumn internationals as the basis for your argument. Yet then you somehow tip England, did you not see the Autumn internationals??? Typical English based media arrogance, just how long exactly since England had a worthy side?"

    The above comment is funny on so many levels! How can someone get so irate simply by imagining a blogger has written something when he hasn't? Maybe the chip on your shoulder is affecting your vision? Come on faddysboots, please read the article and explain yourself. (Incidentally, I wouldn't claim to know the bloggers ancestry or anything, but the name Bryn suggests to me that he's unlikely to fall into the trap of "English based media arrogance".)

    And #12, the guys has simply given an honest prediction (one that many would share). OK, it may not be as interesting as predicting Italy will win but he's got a much better chance of actually being right!

    Anyhows, I'm not sure that I can see the French making it through the hwole tournament without some kind of implosion, so I'll pin my colours to the Irish mast, all the while hoping that England can surprise us. As has already been observed, I think the odds on England winning the 6N will shorten dramatically with a victory tomorrow. The difficulty of these predictions is that no-one really knows how they will perform.

  • Comment number 18.

    Obviously we will know a lot more about every team by Sunday evening but I really can't see past France.

    I normally feel Scotland can sneak an upset at Murrayfield but looking at the size of the French backline and ball carrying forwards it just seems too big a call. They French also have Ireland at home (should be a cracking game but you have to make the home team favourites) and England. Two years ago England got a lucky break in Paris (Noon knocked on in that fabulous tackle) and then a brave up the jumper display was executed by the forwards. The grizzled experience of Corry and Vickery is missing this time though... The French also never slip up against Italy. The might drop the Grand Slam chance in Cardiff though....

  • Comment number 19.

    On my Freedom bird from Munich to see the boys play. I do not care who wins tomorrow, so long as they have a red shirt on. Ireland I worry about as they play with passion the same as the red dragons. I only hope the fire is back into Wales as they did not do too good last year and now they are not so blase.

  • Comment number 20.

    #13:
    "Ireland looked very good in the Autumn, and this group of players has only another year or so together before they'll be too old"

    I really dont understand this thing about Ireland being an old team...i know people refer to BOD(30), POC(30), Hayes(35), ROG(31), o callaghan(30), flannery(31)...ok lets compare to England for example wilkensen(30), shaw(36), moody(31), worsley(32), Flutey(30), S Borthwick(30), S Thompson(31), M Cueto(30), N Easter (31)

    Im only using England as an example but England's key players are all 30+ as well and alot less young talent coming through. So if Ireland have 1 more year before they are "too old"...then England are in serious trouble.

    Everyone said that once o gara retired Ireland would be in trouble because they had no one to replace him...well hello sexton.

    Ireland have a huge pool of talent just waiting to come through and replace the older guys. Just look at kearney, fitzgearld, bowe, heaslip, sexton...no one heard of these guys 2 years ago.

    People need to get over the fact that 30 is old...mike catt played at the top level until 36...30 is the new 26 :-)


  • Comment number 21.

    Ireland are the best team after having won the slam last year, maintaining an unbeatan run through 2009 & beating S Africa. Will be looking for the odds tomorrow and expecting to be about the range of 6/4-2/1.France will probably give Ireland the most serious challenge.

  • Comment number 22.

    France are definately favourites and rightly so.

    It is not a statistical anomily that the link with Lions tours is there, it is a definate advantage for them and always will be. Playing on a Lions tour is a gruelling and rewarding experience, physically it takes a huge toll as those four or five games even against the lesser sides are more intense and phyical than almost any other club or international match. So even for the mid-week players it takes it's toll, extending the season, delaying or reducing the recovary period between seasons. Either they are given less holiday before the start of the year so are more jaded by the six nations or start the season later and can be undercooked, either way they are at a disadvantage to the non-Lions. It also of course takes a mental toll, the high of representing them can induce a lull the next season as players take time to re-evaluate themselves.

    By the same reasoning though I would not rule out Scotland grabbing a top 3 finish, they are better than in recent years, have some momentum and belief again and had less Lions. I can certainly see them running England and Wales close in those matches. I fancy Irenland to be worst effected and to struggle with consistency, Wales depends entirely on how well the Midfield can gel quickly and whether they can change pace if they run up against a brick wall.

  • Comment number 23.

    Perhaps the best thing about the Six Nations this year is that no-one is really sure who is going to win. Cases can be made for France, Ireland, Wales, and England. And whilst Scotland won't win it, they are capable to tripping up one of those other four sides, hopefully starting with France this weekend.

    On paper, I reckon France should win it but(as an Irish man) I hope Ireland can retain the trophy. Last year's Grand Slam was a great achievement but they didn't always play to their potential. In a way, the pressure is lifted this year (now that they've finally won the trophy) so hopefully we might see Ireland cut loose and assert themselves as the best team in the Northern Hemisphere.

  • Comment number 24.

    Let's just clear this up. Scotland are not going to win the Six Nations. The best odds you can currently get is 18-1. Which are still in my book a little hopeful. Australia was a lucky victory born of guts, determination and an excellent rearguard, not by attacking rugby of any sort. PLaying like that, you might nick the odd victory, but it is hardly a basis for taking the rugby world by storm.

    Ireland and France are rightly the favourites and whoever wins the England Wales match also in the mix. Everyone else will be also rans. I would hope also that rugby conditioning is probably better than it has been in recent history to negate 'the Lions effect'

  • Comment number 25.


    As a Welshman this doesn't feel like our year but neither did 2005 and 2008. I agree tomorrow's game at Twickenham will be crucial.

  • Comment number 26.

    Sorry about the 'chip on the shoulder' Scottish view at times... I feel that Scotland may well win one - or two - unexpected matches, thus influencing the outcome of the tournament, but we won't be in contention to win it. We could - on a very good day - win one or both home games, and hope to win in Italy. I do think on another of those 'good days' we could beat Wales in Cardiff.

    However, I don't think this will happen in the same season - so a good season would be to win in Italy, and win two other matches, the best chances in my view being France or England at home (depending which of their teams turn out) and a win in Wales..... big ifs!

  • Comment number 27.

    Let's just hope it's a better tournament than last year. Let's face it, all teams were poor last year. Because of this, it was won by an Ireland team that were not as good as the previous year, but took advantage of the poor quality of opposition.

  • Comment number 28.

    Hope the competition lives up the huge amount of hype and there is some decent rugby played

  • Comment number 29.

    edgroves

    unfortunately any tour will sap you mental and physical strength, and conditioning is only relative to the teams you're playing. Most of the teams will have similar conditioning, and therefore the lions effect could well still be there. As a part Scot though, I think you're right and a couple of wins for them is about as good as can be expected. I do think England could surprise a few people.

  • Comment number 30.

    People are talking about the possible draining effects of the Lions tour. Presumably, though, if players are tired, this would be showing in their club form as there's been plenty of rugby played since South Africa. Is there any evidence that the Lions players are playing below par this year, or is it all just speculation?

  • Comment number 31.

    I remember watching Newcastle a few years ago and wondering if the then Wilkinson, Flood and Tait was the 3 quarters line from hell. Flood has clearly improved. Wilkinson is fitter and stronger. Tait seems to never learn. Nonetheless one cannot help feel that it's a face fitting that 2 players seemingly anointed from a young age and Wilkinson the old hero.

    Anyway my mother was Welsh!

    The Welsh players only require being underdogs to play well. 15/8 get on.

  • Comment number 32.

    Tipping France is bold, I just can't see past the Irish, which considering trips to Paris and Twickenham would be a greater feat than last year.
    The French are famously slow starters, and Murrayfield won't be a stroll about the park, especially with their metronome back in the starting XV.
    As for the rest, the Welsh have far too many injuries to threaten, and although Flutey missing the whole tournament would be a threat to England I like having the option of switching Flood and Wilkinson, personally I'd start with Wilkinson at 12. I don't think it will make for a good game but for me, England just need a win to get going, the rugby can wait...

  • Comment number 33.

    Very disappointed Flutey isn't playing. Flood up against Roberts is not the match-up I'd have wanted from an English point of view, especially with Tait outside. This coupled with Easter's lack of speed at 8 makes me think Mr Roberts will have a big day tomorrow. Hope I'm wrong.

  • Comment number 34.

    I think its an accurate blog and as an irishman myself i have to favour my own team.Clearly the crucial game of the tournament is france/ireland in paris.Presuming both teams win their opening games then whoever wins the game in paris will probably win the grand slam in my opinion.As for wales and england i think they are struggling and are a distance behind the top two and they probably will finish in third or fourth in whatever order,although scotland could cause an upset or two and end up in third or fourth themselves.

  • Comment number 35.

    Sorry, but you could make a case for England to win this year's championship based on what exactly?? Last year's championship, Autumn internationals, this season's heineken cup, an illustrious leader who's achieved nothing? No seriously based on what?

    I highly doubt the Irish or French media are touting the English as potential winners based on objective evaluation but god bless the ole Beeb, she's still got them up there

  • Comment number 36.

    Really upset we wont get to see Flutey tomorrow but, is he that much better in defense than Flood?

    I think our back line doesnt have that same attacking edge as it would if Flutey was in but defensively i think we are the same.

    The problem with playing against Roberts is tackling the bugger!!

    Still very excited about tomorrow!

    England 28 - 17 Wales

  • Comment number 37.

    The case for England winning the title is based on this;
    "To the victor goes crucial momentum, the prospect of making it two out of two the following week (England in Rome, Wales at home to Scotland) and a real crack at the title."

    The case for England and for Wales is just based on the facts. And as for last years Championship are we forgetting that England finished 2nd?

    There's no bias involved. And if there is any bias it is toward the Irish and French.

  • Comment number 38.

    Just to add, England also scored the most tries in last years championship and had the highest points difference?

    But yeah okay, the good old beeb is obviously making this up.

  • Comment number 39.

    Faddysboots is not totally wrong in what he's saying just the way he's put it! Maybe just a wee bit too excited and patriotic in the run up to the start of the tournament! There is no bias going on here but what has to be said is that Test matches are won and lost on these types of mistakes/successes, eg Wilkinsons drop-goal in 2003, Morne Steyn's penalty against the Lions in the second test, Giteau's missed conversion at Murrayfield, plus countless others. Granted Giteau at M'field was not quite on the same level importance wise as the others, but for Scots I does have real significance. Think of all the close run but winning matches put together by England in the years leading up to their World Cup win, first time winning a series in NZ/Aus in countless years, (Not sure of the exact facts) and finally nailing the Grand Slam, these were all hugely significant in the belief the players needed to go on and become that winning side. For Scotland although as mentioned not on the same scale, this is a positive sign that we're trying not to get too excited about but taking on board as a major positive! As acknowledged in the article M'field is a very difficult place to come to and win and a win against the French first up would add to the confidence that is needed by the Scots. Robinson as he did at Edinburgh and the 2003 World Cup side has taught the team how to slow ball down which gives them a chance to remain in the contest. And if Paterson or Parks just kicks and drops goals then fair enough, it's a start! And a very successful side not too long ago relied heavily on a kicker and didn't do too badly for themselves.

    However the French side that put in an awesome display against the Springboks during the Autumn will probably turn up on Sunday and blow the Scots away, ruining everything we're hoping for up here!

  • Comment number 40.

    A completely biased English view is that should we beat Wales tomorrow then we will gradually get better and better throughout the tournament and come up with a shock grand slam.
    Wales are not suddenly a bad team and now they are not fancied will regain their form as underdogs and end up 2nd or third.
    Ireland will have a grand slam hangover and discover they aren't as good as they think they are, and will also suffer with the fact everyside will treat them as a 'bigger' game this year which I believe means they will lose to ENG FRA & WAL
    France will be 2nd or 3rd depending on their game with Wales
    Scotland and Italy - the usual. Although having said England will win the slam I will be expecting a shocker against both of them, we have flirted with losing against Italy enough that it will happen eventually and Murrayfield normal provides very depressing viewing for an Eng fan.

    So my table predictions

    England
    France
    Wales
    Ireland
    Scotland
    Italy

  • Comment number 41.

    I reckon its going to be Wales' year...Shane Williams has started to play again, Byrne (as ever) is immense, the pack (as soon as Jenkins gets back) is the best in the competition...It will be close with Ireland, but I feel Wales will edge it.

    I don't know about the French to be honest, they have to potential, but the gallic mentality always seems to crop up at inoppurtune times, and I feel that if they lose tomorrow, then that will be the end of their campaign at the off, however even if they do win against the Scots, I still expect them to slip up at some stage and go into a brief panic (I hope England benefit from it!)

    England I doubt will win the tournament, not unless we see a vastly improved attacking display than we had in the autumn, one try against Argentina? (and Bryn: i feel its harsh to criticise a lack of try scoring from Scotland on the back of our own ineptitude at the skill in the autumn!) It simply wasnt good enough, the pressures on, and I want us to improve on that stat by quite some margin!

    Scotland and Italy fighting for the wooden spoon I expect, yet both teams also have the potential to cause upsets, its going to be an intriguing month!

    Now...wheres SuperGedawards to tell me what a hypocrite I am for now saying Shane's playing well? :P

  • Comment number 42.

    Who cares!! international rugby union has got to the point where there is so much furore, stirring of emotions?! and build-up to games, especially on the bbc, that most actually turn out to be rubbish spectacles where bodybuilders are just kickig it back and forth to eachother. The breakdowns are a mess and impossible to referee, scrums seem pointless and eventually prematurely end props careers and if a team has a decent kicker, they just play for penalties. the guinness premiership is much better to watch as theres actually some rugby played.

    Its a shame for rugby league that it doesn't have a bigger profile than union because it has all the fundamentals that make rugby great without the needless breakdowns, scrums, line-outs and endless kicking.

    sorry it had nothing to do with the question asked but i had to have a little rant.

  • Comment number 43.

    #40 DL

    "Ireland will have a grand slam hangover and discover they aren't as good as they think they are, and will also suffer with the fact everyside will treat them as a 'bigger' game this year which I believe means they will lose to ENG FRA & WAL
    France will be 2nd or 3rd depending on their game with Wales"

    ha ha ha...i think this guy is high :)

    Ill post my comment tomorrow evening to this!!



  • Comment number 44.

    Good to see Flood in. He should have been included as first choice, anyway.

  • Comment number 45.

    Can't wait for Twickenham tomorrow but I think the England front row is in for a bit of a torrid time, and I was going to say that we look a bit vulnerable at 12/13 faced with Jamie Roberts and James Hook, but now with the injury to Riki Flutey perhaps even more so.
    Probably won't happen, but I could go for the idea of moving Jonny to 12 and bringing Toby Flood in at 10.
    Ireland must be favourites, with this good Welsh side hard on their heels, but if we do play to our full potential,watch out for England !

  • Comment number 46.

    I think it's between Ireland and France for this years championship. Italy and Scotland unfortunatly don't quite have the talent yet. Though there are glimpses of potential in both squads they really need to do what the Irish did at the turn of the Millenium and really start off rugby at the grass roots. With a stable infrastructure and time any thing can happen. Wales are a very strong team and my outsiders for the championship but they have a few injuries coming into this with Rees and Jenkins both out for the England game i dont think they have what it takes. England unfortunatly are just not strong enough to challege either though they did get a very favourable draw, saying that 4th place finish is about what i feel their worth. Every year the english media start thier usual England Dark Horse stories and it's unfair on the english squad. Too much pressure. Martin Johnson is definatly building something but this is not the year. The Autumn internationals were not exactly Brilliant for ye or any of the teams in the 6 nations Bar Ireland who went 2009 unbeaten. That brings me to Ireland. Grand slam champions, most definatly cant be ruled out. Probably the strongest squad but with important trips away that makes France my favourites. Just about though I still feel The Irish squad is extremely talented and if Ferris, Heaslip, BOD stay Fit its hard to stop them. Saying that France for the Championship. No Grand Slam this years.

  • Comment number 47.

    ""Ireland grandslam hangover etc"

    ha ha ha...i think this guy is high :)

    Ill post my comment tomorrow evening to this!!"

    ha ha ha ha i really don't think playing Italy is going to be a good measure of Irelands grandslam chances.. Think this guy knows nothing about rugby ;)

  • Comment number 48.

    i can't see anything wrong with faddysboots doubting Englands credentials to be mentioned as possibe winners!

    if we're talking about form over the last 2-3 seasons (6N and AI) then you'd have to agree with him. Allied to that is the fact that the English sides have been outperformed in the Heineken cup and the English coach is synonymous with a brand of rugby from a bygone era that is incredibly easy to overcome nowadays, then i for one can see his point.

    Title is probably between Ireland and France. I think i'll plump for Ireland purely because Lievremonts tinkering does the French no favours.
    Beyond that Italy will probably be bottom and i wouldn't like to try and predict where the other 3 will be in the pecking order.

  • Comment number 49.

    #20, at the risk of stating the obvious, Ireland are good and England are poor. The old Irish players you mentioned are great, the old English players are average, damaged or past their best. The latter will simply not be missed, but the former are an absolutely irreplaceable, once-in-a-generation unit akin to the legendary and ageing England team of 2003.

    They should all make WC 2011, so Ireland are quite right to keep faith with them, but by doing so they do risk treading the same miserable path as England post-2003.

  • Comment number 50.

    #39, ifu06563, why is faddyboots not totally wrong in what he's saying? In fact he is totally wrong and his comments suggest he has not even read the article. What were all the close run games put in by England up to winning the 2003 World Cup? Or are you talking about only beating the ABs 15-13 in NZ when they were down to 13 men against 15 for part of the match?

  • Comment number 51.

    #49, When they have won a world cup, or even been to a final, then they may lay claim to being akin to the great England WC winning team of 2003.

  • Comment number 52.

    Damn, I think I may have just posted a comment without completing it.

    The gist of it was: Thanks for all your comments, thanks for defending me against accusations of English media bias (that certainly raised a chuckle from a Welshman) and to those who accused me of a cop-out by tipping France to win...er, would you rather I tipped a team I don't think will win it?! For what it's worth I don't think there will be a Grand Slam this year.

    Re No 35 - faddysboots - I'm not sure whether you actually read the blog, but if England beat Wales on Saturday, which is perfectly possible, I think they will go on to win in Rome the following week and then suddenly they are hosting Ireland - who may or may not have lost in Paris in the previous round - in a very different state of mind in round three, with every chance of a top-two finish (even if I think they still won't win it!). England are certainly contenders if they play like they did in their final two games last year against France and Scotland. If you need a reminder, check out no. 7 and 8 in our Top 10 tries from 2009.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/7958649.stm

    Re: 24 and 26 - I think Scotland will do better than of late, and may well win two or even three matches. Hence I stand by my suggestion that third place - after 6th, 5th, 5th for the last three years - will be a hell of an achievement.

  • Comment number 53.

    Old quotes& some glib predictions

    Was hoping for some insight

  • Comment number 54.

    Jeez Faddysboots...you really have an axe to grind about BBC bias!!
    Honestly, I just cannot see where Bryn or any posters prior to yours have been that bullish about Englands prospects.
    Anyway rather than harp on about that I shall give you the benefit of my scientifically proven calculations:
    Ireland 4 wins
    France 4 wins
    Wales 3 wins
    England 2 wins
    Scotland 2 wins
    Italy 0 wins
    I wont spoil things by telling you the results though.

  • Comment number 55.

    Who will win latest Six Nations passion play?
    My answer to this particular question, has to be Scotland. I am a passionate Scottish rugby supporter, on regional, premier and the international front, and am not being biased. After being at Murrayfield for THAT win against Austrialia in the AI's, I would have to say the Scot's are an extremely close knit group of players, with passion and emotion that I havent seen in any other rugby team on such a level. The atmosphere at M'field in November was unreal. If the passion from the crowd can be passed on and seen by the players on the field, which it almost always is, the Scot's play outstanding rugby. Given, it is usually brilliant defensive displays, but that is half of the battle in any game.
    On the subject of who will win the championship this year, I think it is very open and so unpredictable. Certainly between the French, Irish and Welsh. But roll on this weekend when, maybe, we might have a clearer idea of who is going to win!

  • Comment number 56.

    If the best team always won the 6N then Ireland would have a another Grand Slam in the bag! But the way the northern hemisphere referees interpret the breakdown means that the team that kicks the best will win the competition and not neccessarily the best rugby team!

    Under the new interpretations 15 has replaced 12 as the 2nd most important position in the team and whoever has the best combination of a kicking flyhalf and a catching/kicking/counter attacking fullback will win! Jones/Byrne, Sexton/Kearney or Wilkinson/Armitage. I dont think France or Scotland are as strong in these positions. The games between Ireland, England and Wales will come down to a very few points - and be decided by the team that handles the referee best and kicks their penalties.

    Its strange that in attempting to improve the entertainment the rule makers have taken the game backwards to the 80's and early 90's!

  • Comment number 57.

    #55, sure Grant, you're not being biased. On the passion or rugby front, i.e. who will win the title, are you?

  • Comment number 58.

    Deluded patriotic comments from some. Its just a game where you chase a misshaped ball around a field because you are too fat, uncoordinated or both, to play football. I grant you that football attracts a generally less desireable spectator, but please, Rugby is a poor game.

  • Comment number 59.

    Picking up on a couple of points, firstly DL 40. I'd be willing to put a decent amount of money England won't get anywhere near the Grand Slam. The idea that England can go from being mediocre side, to a team that can win a Grand Slam, and for Ireland to go the opposite way, is quite frankly ludicrous.

    Howdy Croftilious good to see you've rejoined the blog force again. I agree that Wales will perform better than last year, but tomorrow will be big test for them. The loss of Jenkins and Phillips will have a massive effect on the squad regardless of the impact S Williams will have. The England vs Wales match should be really good though.

    Grant 55 I wish I could say you're deluded, but I'll wait till sunday before giving a definite, diagnosis. Scotland have undoubtedly become a better side under Robinson, and have real potential to spring a surprise on the French on sunday. I think it is a bit hopeful though - I will however welcome being proved wrong.

  • Comment number 60.

    The only consistent prediction on the above comments is Italy's Wooden Spoon.
    We will fight to prove you all wrong. No matter how difficult this will be.

  • Comment number 61.

    Indignant Scot here. Did anyone in England watch the autumn internationals? Yet you still class yourselves in the "big four". Well, no matter how pants you think Scotland are, surely your continued arrogance in world rugby is the most amusing aspect of this 6 nations. Maybe being governed by the Scots leaves a sour taste in your mouths but this is just a game, Lads! I'm sure the Welsh, Irish and French will be trembling in their boots at the thought of the powerhouse of Jonson (sic). If Engerland finish above Scotland, never mind Italy, I will be astonished, and at that point, will duly eat my hat. To all true rugby fans - let's have a great competition, with passion, skill and flair. Lose the bigots, and may the best team win!

  • Comment number 62.

    I wish that I knew who was going to win because then I wouldn't need to watch the games! :-)

    Frankly, the winner could be any of the sides bar Italy and even they had their moments in the Autumn internationals. England looked a mess, but if they get some momentum, as pointed out, anything is possible, but then that is true of any of the sides.

    As an Englishman, having seen Welsh rugby pass through some very dark years, their revival in the last few years has been one of the happiest stories for a long time. If England don't win, I'll be happy to see them do it. However, I think that this time the tournament is the most open in the last few years, making dogmatic predictions a mug's game!

  • Comment number 63.

    at rumu2, no i dont think i am being biased. oh, forgive me, i forgot to say england have a chance at winning the championship...
    but i seriously think that it will be between the 3 teams i mentioned.

    and to willygilly, i'm not deluded, i never mentioned anything about scotlands ability to beat france on sunday, and i agree that they do have potential to win, if the crowd get behind them like they did in the aumtumn!

  • Comment number 64.

    Just great that it's the start of the six nations again!!

    Scotland start their Six nations campaign without Jason White and Simon Taylor. Two stalwarts of the side in the noughties. Add into the equation omission for religious reasons of Ewan Murray and the absence of Strokosch and Rory Lamont and you have to wonder if we're strong/experienced enough up front to upset the French on opening day.

    However, it's exciting to see the Evans brother lining up again and, given the erratic nature of the French, you can't rule out victory. If we get the victory then the confidence will take a major boost and I think we will be in for a very interesting encounter the following week in Cardiff.

    Hopefully this will be the year we rediscover the knack of scoring tries as we dont have any problems getting points from the boot.

    I'm optimisically predicting three Scotland victories but dont ask me who against as this competition is always an unknown!

    France
    Ireland
    Scotland
    England
    Wales
    Italy.






  • Comment number 65.

    Not convinced by France. England could benifit from momentum if they beat wales. Kidney very shrewd coach, Ireland will maintain some good form.Wales could struggle a lot if they lose to England.Scotland have potential to improve. Italy really struggling.
    ENGLAND
    IRELAND
    FRANCE
    WALES
    SCOTLAND
    ITALY

  • Comment number 66.

    I think there are 4 teams in with a shout - France, Wales, Ireland, England. Scotland, although they can have good days, can also have bad ones, and are just too inconsistent to produce it across the whole season: and Italy's main intention is to win at least one match, I don't know if they've ever managed to win two. So here's my order:

    (1) IRELAND have what I think is the best team. They won the Slam last year, they've got the experience, they had a great autumn, they know they can do it. Unfortunately two of their biggest matches - versus France and England - are away: and while I think Ireland have the objectively better team, the difference is not sufficiently great to be clear favourites even when giving up home advantage. Both matches I'd say are 50/50 shots, maybe 55/45 at best.

    (2) FRANCE - brilliant one day, awful the next. They could win the whole thing in style: they could collapse spectacularly and lose to pretty much anyone except Italy. In their favour is that both Ireland and England have to come to Paris. Wales at the Millennium Stadium will be quite a test though.

    (3) ENGLAND. Their placing of second in last year's Championship slightly flattered them: yet they scored more tries than anyone, and were the closest to beating Ireland - away, as well. This year, the Irish match is at home. The French match is away, but England have a better history than most of being able to win in France: though they are still not favourites there (nobody ever is). Wales will not be the same force at Twickenham that they were at Cardiff, I would back England to win that. Scotland at Murrayfield could be a major banana skin though: although England will be favourites, the Scots often seem to reserve a special performance for the Auld Enemy.

    (4) WALES. Their two away matches - against Ireland and England - will be dangerous. They're also much more a "confidence" team than any of their rivals: win in Twickenham against the odds and the momentum will carry them through to thrash the Scots, give Ireland a really tough game in Cardiff, and if they win that, they will have the self-belief to take out the French, even in Paris. Lose the first one, though, and they could even struggle against Scotland, and if they lose that they will almost certainly lose to both Ireland and France, and suddenly be up against Italy for the wooden spoon. If they lose to England but beat Scotland and then lose to Ireland (they won't beat Ireland if they can't beat England) - or if they beat England but then lose to Ireland - then they'll end up in the mid-table, because I can't see them beating France in Paris unless they're already 3 wins from 3. Nor losing to Italy, of course, unless they're already 4 losses from 4.

    (5) SCOTLAND. In their favour is that France and England both have to come to Murrayfield: however, the French don't seem to mind playing there. They will probably lose, and be expecting to lose, though hopefully not after giving the French a fight. If they put up a good fight, or even manage to sneak a win, they'll give the Welsh a hell of a scare in Cardiff and could even ruin their day: but then comes the visit to Italy where Scotland have most to lose, and may freeze. On the other hand, they WILL be up for the clash against England at Murrayfield and may produce a trademark ambush, although the English should be able to beat them it's no certainty. They will not, however, win at Croke Park in the final round of matches.

    (6) ITALY - Their main ambition this year is to win a match, possibly even two: and their best chance is clearly the home match against Scotland. They'll also produce a gallant but ultimately fruitless display against England, but should be hammered in Ireland or France: Italian rugby players, like some of their dodgier red wines, don't travel well. Their chances in the final match against Wales depend on whether they face a confident, all-powerful Welsh side with 3-4 wins out of 4 playing for the championship - or a panicked, shattered rabble with 0 out of 4, either of which is possible: the latter would be of course their best hope of getting 2 wins in a season (or even 1, if the Scots turn them over in Rome).

  • Comment number 67.

    #66 (Jonathan Ellis), I believe that it was 3 seasons ago that Italy went into the last round of matches with a mathematical chance of being Champions.

  • Comment number 68.

    #66 - agree with your breakdown of the possible results but in fairness you did cover pretty much every possible outcome!!

    Anyways, having had a few drinks with my english and irish counterparts I have come up with the following predictions:

    1. Brian Moore to declare England have kicked the ball too much in the 6th minute of tomorrow's game.

    2. Eddie Butler to chuckle incessantly at every comment Brian Moore makes in anger.

    3. Lee Byrne, fresh from his successful appeal, to encourage as many extra players to join in as possible, with Wlaes fielding as many as 17 players at one point.

    4. Wales to win in a 3 try bonanza against the English

    5. Ireland to record a fairly average victory against the Italians.

    6. The Scots to upset the form book and secure a 22-15 victory against the French.

    7. Adrian Childs to become the new face of the 6 Nations, much to the amusement of Jeremy Guscott and Jonathan Davies.

    As you can tell, its been a long night....

  • Comment number 69.

    Really enjoyed this article Bryn. A couple of really interesting quotes from Mallet and Robinson on national identity, although notably Mallet doesn't go as far as to say national identity, only that a team must have its own identity, which is interesting given the non-Italian players representing and who have represented Italy. It made me consider the nature of nationality on team ethos and commitment at an international level. I think it is interesting what is considered sufficient to represent a nation, http://lukesblog88.com/2010/02/06/99/ . it makes me wonder because with Riki Flutey England have a player who is not English and no longer plays in England; but still I was really gutted that he's now injured and unavailable for the weekend as I really believe he could have got our backline ticking. This made me question what I want from the English side, success or Englishness? I think my answer would probably be simply to watch exciting rugby, and thus, dare I say it I'd probably pick a backline consisting of Welshmen and Australians!

  • Comment number 70.

    I wish I could watch this delightful drama unfold. However since BBC America has it this year instead of Setanta, I only get the England matches; no others. While the rest of the world enjoys the six nations tournament my choices consist of sitcom reruns and documentaries.

    Thank You BBC America, you out-bid Setanta only to turn around and deny the US Rugby supporters the opportunity to enjoy a great tournament. Please do us a favor, don't bid on the Rugby World Cup - we'd really like to see it here.

    IRB - if you are listening - thanks for selling out the States; you have proven that your support for Rugby in the USA is little more than lip service.

  • Comment number 71.

    Scotland to spring a surprise tomorrow and to go on a winning streak to win the Six Nations. Noticed that the Scots have largely been ignored by the media. Andy Robinson has worked quietly to bolster Scottish confidence: the team comprising of many players from the Scots pro teams who are dominating in the Magners League. A league which is proving more competitive and producing better rugby than the English leagues. Just look at the number of Celtic teams winning in the European competitions.

  • Comment number 72.

    Could be interesting this year - Scotland much improved, Wales still a threat, Ireland coming in after a Grand Slam and good autumn series and, of course, England are still flirting with the idea of moving up a level into full mediocrity!

    I predict that the title will be decided between Ireland, France and Wales with a much improved Scottish team coming in fourth and England and Italy battling it out for the wooden spoon!

    Would be really surprised to see England finish above Scotland, Ireland, Wales or France - they're the only team in the Autumn series that showed no forward movement from last years championship - FACT!

  • Comment number 73.

    Yeah it's going to be close.

    However, I'm expecting England to do better than everyone else thinks. I think that they'll beat Wales (I predict 26-22) and go on a winning run...

    However I really do think that the Scots will upset the odds by beating France on Sunday (I predict 22-19).

    And Italy...well - they're Italy. I do love them but they're going to get mashed by Ireland (I predict 44-9)

  • Comment number 74.

    To faddyboots
    Errr the article tips France to win not England! Indeed the way it is written - discussing Ireland next and Wales & England in the same breath I'd say 3rd/4th is the flavour ofthe conclusion.
    I agree analysis can be sometimes blind in favour of England. However I feel that you mustn't have been able to read the full article - was your view obscured by the chip on your shoulder?

    For what it's worth I think England may win, partly because they have been so bad so have very little Lions hangover and they have a favourable route (Wales away would have killed things before they started).

  • Comment number 75.

    I am a proud Scot, so my comments are probably a bit biased. However I think that this is one of the most unpredictable 6 Nations for a while.

    However here is my prediction

    1. France 4 wins
    2. Ireland 4 wins
    3. Wales 3 wins
    4 England 2 wins
    5. Scotland 2 wins
    6 Italy 0 wins (sorry, but you best player is missing)

    Despite this I can see Ireland and France Swapping places, I can also see Wales and England Swapping places. And probably a bit more controversially I can also see England swapping places with Scotland.

    If Wales beat England today, it would be difficult to see them beating Ireland or France, they would come to Murrayfield on the penultimate week with a lot of pressure on their shoulders. And as many people have commented, Murrayfeild can be a difficult place to win.

  • Comment number 76.

    As usual the championship will be decided by a few very close matches and decisions. However, there are some characteristics about the teams that will show through.

    Ireland and France are the two class acts, with better players than the other teams. That does not mean either will win a slam. Ireland have a problem winning in Paris, France could have a half like their first half at Twickenham last year at any stage.

    England's selection is very attacking but can the players transition from a sterile GP to a fluid national team. Not convinced they will, but the RWC 2011 could be a different matter.

    Wales have been found out in terms of their style. Going from touchline to touchline is great to watch but other sides know how to defend against that now. They need to do something different, but on their day a handful for anyone.

    Scotland will huff and puff all day with a very good pack and exciting outside backs. Unfortunately, they have too many problems at 10 and 12, so will never pose a problem in terms of tries scored. They will be hard to beat, but will not score more than 15 points a game.

    Italy - oh dear. It would be great to see them win 3 games in a tournament, but that is a long way off. If they stick with a coach long enough who can put a development structure in place there may be some hope, but not yet.

  • Comment number 77.

    england to win the six natiions i think in my opinion. u cannot base the autumn international performances on what will happen in the six nations because half the team was injured. players like easter and armitage are back in the side and are key components into making england a good side as they are both consistent.

    france are too erratic so win the six nations, i would not be surprised if they lost to scotland on sunday because you never know what tean will turn up.

    ireland are a strong team and are the biggest challengers of england as they have strength in all departments with the likes of keith earls and dave sexton not even starting.

    wales are not strong enough to compete, particularly with their weakened front row which I believe will be eaten alive my englands today. their onyl chance is if roberts, jones, martyn and shane williams all have excellent tournaments and the others underperform. they are the dark horse of the competition.

    Scotland and Italy both are not good enough to win the six nations as their players are not in the same league as either france, england, ireland or wales. Castrogiovanni I could see having a good tournament alongside paterson for their retrospective countries but in terms of the whole team, they are not strong enough.

    Overall, i think the table will rank as follows:

    England
    Ireland
    France
    Wales
    Scotland
    Italy

    Come on England

  • Comment number 78.

    England have not performed as a team for over two years. Martin Johnson will stick with the same tried and tested system that hasn't worked for England before and won't again.
    How can a team go into any competition saying that recent performances and results are immaterial.
    Teams are built on confidence.
    Confidence is built with success.
    Success is measured in victories.
    I rate Ireland, France, Wales and even Scotland higher than England.
    Even Italy could prove a banana skin.

  • Comment number 79.

    I dislike comments like all of the Celtic nations have a chip on their shoulders.
    They can't all be wrong - All of the Celtic nations are united.
    England should accept this.
    Go in to tournaments to compete, not as self-appointed favourites.
    There'll not be as far to fall !

  • Comment number 80.

    would love to be talking about the match but pretty turgid play in the first half, so will instead complain about the bbc coverage. what is going on with the cameras?

  • Comment number 81.

    Referees really need to get a grip of what is growing on in the scrum. Alain Rolland just did not have a clue today. To be fair, he was equally incompetent towards both teams, and his decisions affected both teams - and he was pretty excellent everywhere else. But the scrum (and to a lesser extent, the ruck) are where the game really needs good quality refereeing.

    This is true on all things... crooked scrum feeds (both sides guilty, this REALLY needs a crackdown), pushing and twisting the wrong way (very often the player that appears to be doing so, and gets the blame for it, has been dragged out of position by an opponent - both front rows were at it, it doesn't help that general proper scrummaging techniques are not what they were. Jason Leonard, for example, would have taken all four props on display today to the cleaners.

    I don't remember seeing this happen almost at all, until a few years ago... first really began to notice it in the 2003 World Cup, when time after time England got penalised for the fact that Australia's Alan Baxter kept collapsing the scrum on his side.

  • Comment number 82.

    I have just been watching the Six Nations England - Wales match. Exciting as usual. Glad it's back on terrestrial. But why, oh why do we still have to suffer the inanities of John Inverdale. Does somebody up there think he's the sporting woman's crumpet, or a man's man?
    Maybe he's a man's man. He certainly doesn't do it for women rugby fans. At least, not this one. He's incapable, it seems, of presenting without, at least once including a put-down to his female colleagues, or sometimes, at Wimbledon, it's even been to female competitors.
    How the BBC chooses its presenters continues to be one of life's little mysteries. You let go of one of the best sports presenters in Steve Ryder. You have three excellent female sports presenters in Sue Barker, Hazel Irvine and Clare Balding. Yet you continue with the blandest of the bland, Gary Lineker and the aforesaid John Inverdale. How much longer must we suffer? It's enough to turn you off BBC Sport for life. Bring back Bill McClaren even David Coleman. At present, the men just don't cut it.

  • Comment number 83.

    Agree with Heffalump regarding the presenters. As an England supporter I always find Mr. Inverdale to be the opposite of the late Mr McLaren in that he is not impartial. It is embarrassing and not really in the spirit of rugby. Can the BBC please appoint someone knowledgeable with a degree of impartiality?
    As for the game, I thought for England both Borthwick and Monye played well and for Wales well the yellow card obviously cost them dear however it was good to se Hook's spark of brilliance leading to a well deserved try in the second half.

  • Comment number 84.

    Not to be rude but I think the only competition Scotland and Italy will have will be to see who doesn't get the wooden spoon. I can't see either side really being in contention. I think France and Ireland are the top 2, with Ireland just taking it in my opinion. However, if England keep their discipline like they did against the Welsh, they will become a MUCH harder team to beat. Most of the points against England were through penalty kicks and due to the huge number of sin bins we had. Without that problem, they can really compete. I support England but I think Ireland have the best chance.

 

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