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Six Nations set for launch with a bang

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Bryn Palmer | 23:18 UK time, Wednesday, 26 January 2011

This year's official Six Nations launch was unusual in one respect.

It was the first time in a decade that the same six coaches who were talking about their team's prospects a year ago were still in situ 12 months on.

That minor miracle aside, a reassuring sense of déjà vu - or perhaps déjà entendu - pervaded proceedings at London's Hurlingham Club.

"This tournament is all about momentum," was, as ever, the go-to phrase, borne out perhaps by three Grand Slams in the last three years by three different countries.

Win the first game, get on a roll, and there's every chance the glory will follow.

The Six Nations captains pose for photos as they help launch the tournament at london's Hurlingham Club

Which captain will be lifting the Six Nations trophy aloft this year? Picture: Getty

This is despite the fact that most coaches, players and pundits agree that the teams are so closely matched now that picking a winner becomes harder every year.

Martin Johnson, as he did 12 months ago, predicted that no-one would be, er, predicting the outcome of such a notoriously unpredictable tournament.

"I don't think anyone is putting a lot of money on any team to win it right now," he said, in case anyone had the impression the England manager had suddenly become a compulsive gambler. "I think the field has certainly come together."

The bookies bear him out. England, on the back of an upwardly mobile six months, are slight favourites - for the first time since 2003 - but France, Ireland and Wales are close behind, with Scotland slightly further adrift and Italy rank outsiders as usual.

Not that the Azzurri take offence. "We are not arrogant enough to think we can win every game," said their coach Nick Mallett, whose fourth Six Nations campaign may prove to be his last if reports his bosses have already lined up Jacques Brunel to succeed him after the World Cup prove correct, despite Mallett's insistence that his future remains undecided.

His absence from the annual party would be a pity, because Mallett speaks more sense on most rugby topics, and in a variety of languages, than anyone.

Italy are not without hope, with talismanic skipper Sergio Parisse back in harness and a new 20-year-old scrum-half, Edouardo Gori, who Mallett believes "has the ability in time to become comparable with anything in Europe", but they don't pretend to be realistic title contenders.

Scotland though, it seems, start every Six Nations tournament full of optimism, convinced they can beat anybody if they find the best of themselves. "But if we are not at our best, we get beat," added Andy Robinson by way of a rider.

Just as well you might say, since for each of the last four years, their 'best' has eluded them in four out of five matches.

In theory, the Scots have every right to be buoyant after finally winning a Six Nations away game against someone other than Italy for the first time in eight years (23-20 in Dublin), two summer Test victories in Argentina and an autumn win over South Africa.

But the last time they reconvened for Test duty after several months' away, the result was not pretty. "We are confident, but the New Zealand game in November (a 49-3 home defeat) is a good reminder of where we are," noted Robinson darkly.

It doesn't take a genius to work out why Scotland are 'where they are'. They have never got into double figures for tries in a single Six Nations campaign, and have only managed 10 in the last three years.

Asked whether a statistic of seven tries in his 13 games in charge to date was a concern, Robinson narrowed his eyes, stared at his accuser for a few seconds, then responded: "No" (pause for dramatic effect)...does it concern you?" Ah, the banter.

At least Warren Gatland, bless him, can be relied upon to spice things up.

The Wales coach has started early this year, chucking a verbal grenade in the direction of England hooker Dylan Hartley a full 10 days before match-day.

Johnson's response on Wednesday showed that he too was not averse to a bit of pre-match fun with a sly dig at Gatland's recent record as Wales coach - six defeats and a shambolic draw against Fiji in his last seven Tests.

"That's how people react under pressure," said Johnno. "Where Wales are, not having won a game for a while, it wasn't unexpected." Nice.

Gatland quipped that his captain Matthew Rees has fined him a couple of grand for making the comments, and he has banned himself from any further media pronouncements before the game. Ah, c'mon Warren. Don't be like that.

Not that he had any regrets. "We needed to sell a few thousand tickets and I am on a bonus from the BBC to get the viewing figures up for this game," he grinned.

Despite that run of defeats, all to the southern hemisphere's big three, Gatland believes the benefits will soon be felt in a World Cup year. "We could easily have played lesser teams and made it look good on the scoreboard, but in terms of improving us as a team, that wouldn't have done our rugby any good."

Despite another untimely spate of injuries, the New Zealander is sticking to his belief that Wales are "knocking on the door" and that beating England on opening night could spark similar sensations to wins over the old enemy in 2005 and 2008.

"If we win that first game, we feel we can win the Six Nations," he insisted.

France, despite reuniting the majority of the squad that won the Grand Slam last year, appear to be in something close to funereal mode approaching the defence of their title.

France coach Marc Lievremont looks underwhelmed as he takes questions from the media at the Six Nations launch

This time last year, Marc Lievremont was heard recalling the 'catastrophe' of their 2009 capitulation at Twickenham.

Twelve months on, the 'catastrophe' in question was at the hands of Australia (59-16) two months ago, and the 'complete suicide' of the second half after the teams went in level at the interval.

"We weren't ourselves. It was an extremely difficult moment," lamented Lievremont.

At least he has an idea of what the French should be. Mallett may be right when he says "France always have the most potential to win the Six Nations, because they are the team with the most talent to choose from." But that doesn't mean they will.

With away games in Dublin and Twickenham, you wouldn't bet your last euro on them winning a sixth Six Nations title in 12 years, would you?

With the tournament taking place against the backdrop of a World Cup in New Zealand in a little over seven months, the stakes are higher than usual. "There is a bit more edge around - everyone knows what is coming," acknowledged Johnson, not that he believes it detracts from the spectacle which will unfold over the next two months.

"The Six Nations is great anyway," said the man who last lifted the trophy for England in 2003. "It is just a great competition to be involved with."

A rapidly escalating injury list - with Tommy Bowe the fifth back-three player, and seventh in all, to be ruled out of their opening game in Italy - has also done nothing to dampen Ireland coach Declan Kidney's enthusiasm for a competition he won at the first attempt two years ago, and finished second in last year.

"It is brilliant," said Kidney. "It is like playing five finals in seven weeks."

Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll and coach Declan Kidney share a joke at the Six Nations launch

Brian O'Driscoll and Declan Kidney were in relaxed mood as they discussed Ireland's prospects. Picture: Getty

The man alongside him, Brian O'Driscoll, was present for the ninth year in a row as Ireland's captain. The weather wasn't the worst he has known for the traditional photocall - "No rain or snow, I'll take that" - but at 32, and with a fourth World Cup in his sights later this year, arguably the greatest player to have graced the Six Nations era would be forgiven for thinking this was all a bit passé. Not a bit of it.

"I love this competition and the interest hasn't waned in any shape or form," said the celebrated centre, who has played in 50 of Ireland's 55 Six Nations matches (only team-mates John Hayes (54) and Ronan O'Gara (52) have played more, from any country) - and scored more tries - 22 - in the tournament than any other player.

"If anything I probably have more of a hunger for it now with the knowledge that I don't know how many more I have left. I treat every one like it could be my last but every moment - in camp, on the bus to matches, those small things - still give me as much of a buzz as they did 10 years ago."

If BOD is buzzing ahead of an opening encounter with Italy, imagine the atmosphere just before kick-off at the Millennium Stadium next Friday night.

Traditionalists may welcome the announcement by the Six Nations committee that there will be no more Friday night fixtures for the foreseeable future.

But for this year, Wales v England in Cardiff promises to give the greatest annual rugby tournament an absolute firecracker to kick things off. As Johnson put it, with delicious understatement, "The adrenaline factor for both teams will be high."

Bring it on.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Bryn, I'm sure there will be plenty of rugby comment on your fine article, so i make no apologies for this ....

    Why the blummingly do we get this same naff pre-tournament photo every year?

    Would it be too much to ask that we stick 'em all in their boots as well as full kit and have them on a rugby pitch rather than looking like a bunch of overgrown kids begrudgingly arriving at David Pickering's house to show him their new strips?

  • Comment number 2.

    I actually really like the build up, and the photo that you seem to hate. I think its just a good laugh, and to be honest I honestly cannot see what your MASSIVE problem is...seriously? Thats it? This is a great article and you come out with "I dont like the Photo Bryn :("??

    On a more positive note, a fantastic article and I also cannot wait for this years tournament!

  • Comment number 3.

    I am not an optimistic Scot for once, but I hope we will fight like hell and make life a misery for all our opponents. Tries would be nice but I'll take results.

  • Comment number 4.

    Photo? Which photo? The happy couple, or the funny man biting his thumbnail, or the kids in gardening motley?

    Actually, the more contrived snaps really are just a waste of space if you aren't into those handsome thighs and comely smiles - or scary glowers, as the case may be, and we've all seen those before, as newtraditionalhaka has pointed out. Come on, can't we be a little more creative, you with the cameras?

    And it's not a massive problem, really. Nothing like the one everybody in the pics must experience in relation to the World Cup - which is just by way of keeping the Six Nations in perspective...!

    Actually, the article got my FULL attention. Thanks, Bryn.

  • Comment number 5.

    Heaven only knows who will win this years 6 Nations. Perhaps, if the fixture divide is right England but.............
    The French were truly awful in November (You don't go into a Rugby Bar in France and even breathe the word Australia) but that could be partially down to the lack of a real fly half. Damien Traille is one of my favourite players over the last sevveral years of French Rugby but he is NOT an international fly half at this stage of his career. If Lievremont gets his selections right (injuries permitting) and goes for experience at scrum half & flair at fly half (Yashvilli & Trinh Duc) then perhaps they will click. As witnessed in the recent H Cup rounds the forwards are up to it. Tight five all in good form & back row as usual across the offside line & "just coming back onto our side of play ref" as the ball is being passed (Just watch Harinordoqy).
    Should be a great tourney.

  • Comment number 6.

    “Despite those run of defeats, all to the southern hemisphere's big three, Gatland believes the benefits will soon be felt in a World Cup year."

    ... THOSE run of defeats? BBC journalist in poor English shock.

  • Comment number 7.

    Just one rider, the Scots have rarely gone in thinking they can beat absolutely anyone, they are much too introspective for that.
    I don't think they can win in Paris, but with home games against Wales and Ireland (as well as Itlay) they will at least think a Triple Crown and depending on results elsewhere, maybe even a share of the Championship, is not beyond them.

  • Comment number 8.

    I've been looking forward to the 2011 6 Nations ever since our WC Final defeat to South Africa in 2007. The pre World Cup tournament is always the best in my eyes.

    So, let the banter begin...!

    Scotland - I still feel anger at you for settling for a draw against us last year. Fair enough, you knew it meant we couldn't win the tournament as a result and that gave you and your fans great satisfaction... However, you had posession, at home, in front of your die hard fans and you kicked for touch at the first opportunity to settle for a draw. You can say what you want, but in my eyes that is defeatist and therefore disgraceful. Surely there are some Scots out there that found that decision wrong?! I'm looking forward to getting revenge on you, not just at Twickenham, but in Auckland too. (Best of luck against Argentina at the WC though, I think you can beat them on the day).

    Wales - Why is the Wales England game on a Friday? Grrr. It really annoys me! Why should the English fans have to take a day off as holiday to watch their team, just because the Welsh are happy to do it? I've been to Cardiff on match days and the whole of Wales seems to be there for days in advance, all wearing their Wales shirts, getting drunk. Patriotic and great support in some eyes. A little embarassing in mine... Save it for the actual match day and make said match day a normal weekend fixture... rather than a Public Holiday!!

    Ireland - Really looking forward to playing you guys. This will be the big one in my opinion and I expect a tight match. I hope that we can edge it, but it could go either way.

    Italy - Thoroughly enjoyed our match last year... upon reflection after we had won it. Hated every minute of it live! Didn't help that I was sat in a bar at Cardiff Bay with Welsh fans cheering every Italian pass...

    France - You didn't deserve the Grand Slam last year, but you did deserve to win the tournament. I'm expecting the traditional flop from you this year, since it's a World Cup year and all... I don't think you can even rely on your typical New Zealand heroics either, since NZ are at home this time! I look forward to welcoming you to Twickenham and giving you a proper game this year.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hey Chris must be difficult keeping a perspective with those chips on your shoulder. I gather that the Welsh fans are not happy with this issue either if you read various boards etc. They also had to experiment last year with the French game didn't they? Try getting out of your glass bubble and see it from the other side. I imagine Welsh supporters not living within the Cardiff area must be mightily sick of being messed around - try getting from North Wales to Cardiff without taking a day off work!

  • Comment number 10.

    To be honest,

    The pictures are unimportant
    The WC is 10 months away
    Last year is history

    I CAN'T WAIT FOR 6N 2011

    Sunshine at The Stadio Flaminio
    A NEW mindset against the French at The NEW Landsdowne
    Party time with our Celtic cousins at Murrayfield
    Good memories at The Millenium
    Showdown with Martin Johnson back at Landsdowne (and this time the changing rooms will be on the right side of the tunnell!!)

    BRING IT ON

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    Thanks for your comments. Keep em coming.

    Re: newtraditionalhaka and others...Yea, the photo is a bit naff isn't it? I can't say the captains ever look too comfortable with this sort of staged pose. Reminds me of those wedding photos when the happy couple have to saunter hand-in-hand through some gardens or orchard while the snappers try to get creative. Dubious to say the least. Especially when there always seems to be at least one captain missing. Last year it was Dusautoir so Dimitri Swarzewski stepped in. This year Parisse couldn't make it so the vice-captain Leonardo Ghiraldini did the honours. Somehow the pic always seems to end up on the front cover of those Six Nations guides that will be appearing over the next week or so...

    Re: No 6- barbedwiretumbleweed - Well spotted. Dutifully changed. Maybe you could get a job as sub-editor at the BBC?

  • Comment number 13.

    Beilions - There's no chip on my shoulder with Wales... only with Scotland! My statement on the Welsh is merely an observation. Everyone knows that their fans are the ones that take RBS the most seriously.

    If the Welsh fans had that much of an issue with the France fixture last year, why do they find themselves with another Friday fixture this year? If their views have been ignored, then that's very disappointing for all parties. If the organisers insist on a Friday opener, then it should be shared.

    I've had the pelasure of experiencing five 6 Nations matches in Cardiff and every single time, the fans treat it like it's a World Cup Final - men, women, children, even homeless people sporting red shirts (photographic proof available!).

    It's no secret that the Wales fans love it more than anyone else. In fairness, I'm sure most people would be the same given their fantastic rugby history vs size of Country.

    It's still very amusing though!

  • Comment number 14.

    #8 Chris

    I understand why you are angry at Scotland regarding the end of last year's match, however given the preceeding two matches that we'd played, blowing a ten point lead with seven minutes to go in Cardiff then losing in Rome, it was an understandable decision. I'm a Scot and wanted us to go for the win, but was glad, given the recent history, that we didn't lose.

  • Comment number 15.

    Looking at that picture, has Lewis Moody got Andrew Sheridan's shorts on???

  • Comment number 16.

    I actually love the friday night fixture. Can't wait to have a couple of beers and scream at the TV. The good news is the Welsh support still seems to have a chip on their shoulder about the English. They want to win too much and will in the end be beaten..
    I still love the way they play and the support is amazing..

  • Comment number 17.

    6 nations is upon us once again let the banter start.

    Chris you seem to be the typical English supporter and why all other countries always support the team playing against England. I too think that we shouldn't play a 6 nations game on a Friday night or even a Sunday and should be all played on a Saturday. We have had to make the trip to Paris on a Friday night and also host the French last year on a Friday night. So boo hoo to you.

    However, you obliviously have never been on a proper rugby tour, drunk solid for 4 days to watch your team win lose or draw and is something that many of the other home nations have done for decades.

    Its too close to call who will win the 6 nations, but I think it depends on who wins the first game and can gain momentum from it. Wales win and like in 2005 and 08, who knows what they can achieve. Loose and I fear that we may get the wooden spoon having to make trips to Scotland and Italy after the first game.

    Its good to see England trying to play rugby for a change, other than the boring rugby that won them a world cup. Its good for the 6 nations to have a good England side back and trying to play attacking rugby.

    Who knows what France will bring to the table, depends who turns up for them I suppose, but you'd put them up.

    Ireland too, like us struggling with injuries especially in their back division so we'll have to see. Think that they were at their peak in 2009 and winning the Grand Slam which was well deserved. Again you can't wright them off...

    Scotland, score tries and who knows what you are capable of producing, such as beating Ireland away last year.....

    Italy, could do well this 6 nations possible be the best championship you have had to date if things go your way, if not then wooden spoon beckons.....

  • Comment number 18.

    As an English fan I only want two things this year.

    1. England to play every game as they did against Australia.

    I appreciate that may be wishful thinking, so also

    2. I want to watch every minute that Shane Williams is on the pitch. Gutted he's retiring after the world cup. (Although if he has a shocker next Friday I can live with that....)

  • Comment number 19.

    I don't understand why Welsh fans making a big deal of the 6 nations is such a problem to that guy. I've lived in Cardiff my whole life and as the 6 Nations approaches there's always a buzz around the city. Surely this is what makes it such a good place for the other fans to visit. We love the rugby and support the team through thick and thin (and believe me there's been plenty of thin in my lifetime!).

    It's a sad attitude to have and as mentioned previously this is a prime example of why everyone else supports the team playing England. Kudos to the England supporters who don't behave like this. It's gonna be a great tournament and good luck to everyone. Let's hope Wales start with a win!

  • Comment number 20.

    #14 Badger - that's a good point regarding the influence of the prior results Scotland had in Rome and Cardiff. I'll concede that the draw last year does at least add extra spice to this year's fixture - and that can never be a bad thing. I hope the same Scotland turn up and we have another classic match, just with a winner this time - whoever that may be.

    #17 The12thMan - Of course I'm a typical English supporter... I'm English!

    #11 Gavin - I don't think I was being particularly arrogant?! I openly conceded that we might lose to Ireland, afterall (though I doubt it)! It's fair to criticise the Friday night fixture, as I believe that it's a decision taken simply to make more money. I'm not naive enough to think that additional money gets filtered into growing the sport, like the powers-that-be would have us believe. There's also no evidence to suggest a larger audience watches the match, as ratings are much the same as the 'big' Saturday/Sunday fixtures.

  • Comment number 21.

    I fully agree about the picture - not one of those players has the face for a camera, and no rugby player does (no offence). Perhaps next year they could take a picture of lion cubs or kittens or something wearing specially made team shirts; or take a picture of bikini-clad models with the captains only just recognisable in the distant background.

  • Comment number 22.

    newtraditionalhaka

    I know how you feel about the photo. Every year, trainers! I know studds get a bit damaged on hard surfaces, but they're having pics taken not doin sprint training! An Will, i think he was only havin a laugh.

    As for the big ol' 6 nations; well i feel about as excited as I do every year, and from an Englishman's point of view, that's not ideal. I only really got into rugby when i was 12 and england won the world cup... so in my rugby supporting career it's only gone downhill (i almost feel responsible), or had been since about half a year ago. But every year i find something to get excited about: 2004- bring on another title!, 2005- Charlie Hodgson/Matthew Tait bring it on(i know, what a let down...), '06- Surely Eng aren't that bad... '07- Wilko and Billy r back ! + new coach BA, 08- ooo, Vainikolo, exciting, Cipriani, yes? no? maybe....not 09- Martin Johnson, set things straight please... ooo, yellow cards 2010!- Right, new fresh young players, can't wait to see ashton, foden, lawes, croft, cole an younges get loads of time playin.... well, half right...

    So as you can see, if you've bothered to read all this, which surely only 1/6th at the most will, i get excited easily. So this year reverse pschology, or whatever,...i recon ireland might get it. If england win, thank me...

  • Comment number 23.

    @ simplycherry - I feel for you, but you're not a proper rugby fan if you haven't had to spend several years supoporting absolute dross. For me personally the darkest times were our 93-94 side and specifically the time Jack Rowell thought it was a good idea to pick 3 No.8s as a back row, with Ben Clarke at openside flanker...visionary....

  • Comment number 24.

    It's hard to call a winner indeed but, know this - all grand slam winners have always won their first match.

  • Comment number 25.

    @19 - I'm not Welsh but good point well made! I'll be supporting your lot at Millenium Stadium next Friday night for precisely those reasons.

    Do hope the Scots do much better this year - they've been showing a lot of improvement and I hope that is reflected in the results this year. They may not win but they'll make it difficult for a lot of others to have any chance of getting a Grand Slam.

  • Comment number 26.

    The french rarely if ever start anything thinking they will do well. paranoia and self doubt are national traits, I know I live here.
    I don't see the England coach Johnson ever having the nous to win the grand slam. I think he had too many kicks to the head in his playing days. The Irish might not play to their full potential expressly to surprise people in the world cup.
    I think Gatland is an under rated coach... This is could be anyones, I will go for the French with Italy to spring a surprise.

  • Comment number 27.

    Ha ha, well this launch is done every year now so I see it as a bit of fun & the banter can then begin.
    we're 20/1 to win the grand slam (wales) can't see it happening this year though,then again I said that on two previous occassions recently and we did it, we'll probably lose in Edinburgh this year.
    Certainly looking forward to heading back to wales next week for the opener & then for the bi-annual trip to Edinburgh, where it gets very cold!

  • Comment number 28.

    I think this years 6 nations may well be the most even , looking closely at all 6 teams ( yes gerry guscott Italy are there ) i think it will be who has the best sqaud and maybe England and France have the best ,but looking at all the games i think the game in Rome for Ireland may well be the game i can see a real big upset ,maybe with so many of Irelands top players missing ,if ever there was a chance of a big rome crowd a fired up sergio parissie and a huge italian pack just maybe

  • Comment number 29.

    Being a Welsh fan I think I need to point out that EVERYONE I know hates the Friday night fixture. I live less than 10 miles from Cardiff but it makes it an absolute nightmare to get into. Especially now that the train drivers are going to strike as their 12% payrise "isn't sufficient". The Friday fixture was an experiment, one that has failed with epic proportions as ticket sales are LESS, as everyone stays at home after a days work.

    Anyway, the 6Nations:

    England:- Potential. Real potential. A lot of good young players coming through and developing into a good unit. Highest chance of victory and should achieve at least 2nd.

    France:- Like any France team they blow Hot and Cold. Who's going to turn up? Cannot be discounted with the quality they have so I'll go for top two.

    Wales:- Suffering from a lot of injuries and not a lot of strength in depth. The first match will decide our tournament. A good victory will set us on course for a top two finish. Poor loss and we'll be fighting for the wooden spoon. Realistically oing for fourth :(

    Scotland:- Simply will not win the tournament from the boot. Better teams will cut out the errors and ensure they do not concede penalties within striking distance, thus disabling Scotland's scoring ability. Cannot see better than 5th, sorry.

    Ireland:- Some worrying injuries but can never be discounted, especially with a coach like Kidney. BOD can win games almost by himself so i'm going for a 3rd.

    Italy:- I feel Italy deserve a top four finish as they've surely earned it by now. With the two Italian teams in the Magners League it's not far off (just so long as it's not at Wales's expense :). However still lacking quality and discipline in some areas. Wooden spoon I'm afraid.

    So to summarise I reckon England vs France will decide it and as it is at Twickenham it's surely has to be advantage England?

  • Comment number 30.

    Not sure where to start with Scotlands chances. One of the best packs in the 6N will provide plenty of ball and if we're to have any chance of bettering last seasons results then we'll need to use it better.

    Dan Parks can be a creative Stand Off we witnessed that in the first half of the 6N game in Cardiff last season, however he is too often keen to put boot to ball at every opportunity. It could be that the injury to Morrison means that he can't just rely on a big sack o' tatties lumbering 3 yards upfield with the ball and has to be a tad more creative, fingers crossed. Think we'll end with 2 wins against Wales and Italy, a draw against Ireland and humpings from France and England!

    Otherwise i'm expecting a strong England performance to win them the 6N, Ireland and France to push them hard with Wales and Scotland behind those 3 and Italy bringing up the rear!

    I hope it's another great tournament with fantastic rugby and a minimum of time spent watching 16 men cuddle each other just for the referee to ask them to repeat it.

    Oh, and could i ask that if, as expected, England do well in the tournament that their fans don't get too arrogant with it. Thanks.

  • Comment number 31.

    Ireland don't quite have the killer instinct to finish off the big teams when they need to (prediction-3rd)

    France-I thought they were the best bet until they er... lost 59-16 to Australia in France (prediction-2nd)

    England-By far the best team in the tourney, showed it against the tri nation teams (prediction 1st)

    Wales-Oh dear, drew with Fiji, I mean where do you go from there
    (prediction 6th)

    Scotland-Massive win over SA so could pull off a big win
    (prediction 4th)

    Italy-About time they had a good year in rugby, look a much better side than they did 6 or 7 years ago
    (prediction 5th)

  • Comment number 32.

    With the demise of 606 I hope there's enough articles like this to keep the banter going.

    I'm a Scot and I'm excited. Nervous but excited. One weakness is 10/12 channel, now Morrison is out and leaves Parks isolated. NDL and Groves get a chance though and may well get the backs moving for once.

    Chris - we went for the draw because we'd lost two matches on the bounce in the last 5. No complaints from any Scot that day.

    Bring it on...

  • Comment number 33.

    '18years of dominance158'

    'England by far the best team in the tourney'



    Hahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahaahhahahahahahahhahahahhaa

  • Comment number 34.

    "In theory, the Scots have every right to be buoyant after finally winning a Six Nations away game against someone other than Italy for the first time in eight years (23-20 in Dublin)"

    Bryn that's a bit harsh since we beat England in 2008, Wales in 2007 and France and England in 2006. Unless there's some sarcasm that I've missed along the way.

  • Comment number 35.

    Bryn my apologies, I've been a clot and nit read what you said. Sorry

  • Comment number 36.

    Where does this "arrogant English" tag come from? I have played rugby right across the world (at a modest level I might add) and the English are not the arrogant ones. That would be the South Africans and some Kiwis (usually the ones who do not play the game).

    The "arrogant" tag comes from those who don't know English fans, or haven't played the game, as true English rugby fans are no more arrogant, than the Scots are tight and the Irish are stupid. Its the plain nonsense of outdated and inaccurate stereotypes.

    Us English who haven't come lately to the game, and thus understand it, well remember the dark days of the 80's, the middle 90's and most years since the 2003 World Cup, so there is nothing to be arrogant about.

    (@ #23 - that was the time when the French went for three props in the front row as well wasn't it?)

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    This could well be the closest 6 nations, but for what it is worth here is my prediction:
    1st. England; with the addition of youngs, Ashton and Foden to the backs we actually have some attacking options (and quick ball, something that seems to be impossible for Care when he pulls on an england shirt).
    2nd. France; reminded me last year of the England team in 2003 (very clinical). I like Para and Trinh-Duc in the halfback positions. But as always with the French they can beat any team in the world one day and get destroyed by any team in the world the next day.
    3rd; Wales, this is were it gets harder to call. bad wouldn't begin to describe the performance against fiji and they have really bad injuries. but they also have Shane Williams and a good kicking game.
    4th: Ireland; same old story for the Irish (imo), they always peak 2 years before the world cup and come the WC year there players are past their best. This has been a problem for them the 10yrs or so, but who knows?
    5th; Scotland; can't get any worse then it has been for the last few years, will have to rely on their kicking game.
    6th; Italy; always gonna be outsiders, but could easily finish above Scotland. Playing in the Magners league is certainly going to help them
    hope this hasn't offended anyone, it's just how I see it this year.

  • Comment number 39.

    Comment 33, what are you going on about England ahven't won the six nations 4 donkey's years

  • Comment number 40.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 41.

    Too many folk underestimating scotland - Look at the recent record - 2 away wins against Argentina, away win at Ireland, Beat SA at home, drew with England, got humped by NZ

    Look at the IRB rankings - not much in it is there and rightly #ahead of Wales

    I doubt Scotland have the fire-power to get a grandslam but they have the best pack as a unit of any team Fast and smart with great ball players. Solid well organised defense. Oh for a couple of midfield backs!

  • Comment number 42.

    Teh rankings

    4940 ENGLAND 82.48
    5(5) IRELAND 81.79
    6(6) FRANCE 81.66
    7(7) SCOTLAND 81.20
    8(8) ARGENTINA 78.97
    9(9) WALES 77.04
    10(10) FIJI 74.05
    11(11) SAMOA 74.02
    12(12) ITALY 73.31

    England / Ireland / France / scotland - not much to choose between them Wales and Italy to fight for the wooden spoon

    Injuries will have a big effect - England losing the new young forwards will be a big blow. They are looking like reverting to the old slow plodders. I think that will cost them dear

  • Comment number 43.

    jplooseforward, i totally agree with you. Scotland by far had the best summer and autumn, they have three very winnable home games against an ireland side struggling for form and with the loss at croke still in their minds, a welsh side riddled with injuries and inexperience, and an italy side which i know will probabaly end up a nail biter but should be a given. If you look at last years championship, Scotland should of only really lost to just France. The wales game was just a nightmare finish but lets not forget the rugby we played for the first 60 minutes! It wouldnt surprise me if Scotland picked up a win on the road this year, wouldnt it be fantastic if it was against the english! Everyone is always to quick to rule out Scotland, we are on a roll and are very hard to beat, just remember this when you sit down to watch your team brush us aside comfertably....its not going to happen.

  • Comment number 44.

    Why are they playing Friday night? I live Miami now and will probably have to take a half day off work! bugger!
    COME ON ENGLAND!!

  • Comment number 45.

    "We needed to sell a few thousand tickets and I am on a bonus from the BBC to get the viewing figures up for this game"

    The fact that Gatland admitted to this is a disgrace, the 6 Nations has always been about rivalry, whether historic or between the in-form teams. I like the pre-match chat, as it shows a passion for success, and fuels rivalries to make for great rugby. Never should a coach admit to making pre-match comments on the pretence of a media bonus.

    Other than that, bring on the 6 Nations, always a tournament with either great rugby or a surprisingly open competition!

  • Comment number 46.

    31. At 3:54pm on 27 Jan 2011, 18years of dominance158 wrote:

    'England-By far the best team in the tourney, showed it against the tri nation teams'

    -----------

    Now that's not entirely true: they played some great rugby against Australia but they were poor against South Africa. Who's to say which England we'll see in the coming months?

  • Comment number 47.

    Article and comments are being a tad unfair on Scotland, who had a successful Autumn test despite a heavy defeat to NZ. Before that they had a successful time against Argentina, and in the last Six Nations, Scotland showed a far greater potential that just needed refined.

    Frankly though i'm glad you all think Scotland is an outsider. That means we can sneak up like we usually do when we're underdogs and create a storm.

  • Comment number 48.

    YOU'RE ALL MAD!

  • Comment number 49.

    Can't wait for the 6Nations to begin

    Would love for Wales to win but i'm not hopeful

    I predict:

    1. France
    2. England
    3. Ireland
    4. Wales
    5. Scotland
    6. Italy

    The first game can change it all though, roll on next week!!!

    C'MON WALES

  • Comment number 50.

    Didn't see to much Irish input so thought I should add.
    Well lets start on England, yes they did quite well against Australia. I concede that is quite an understatement. However I feel they will start off well but gradually worsen throughout the tournament. In recent years this seems to be their trend, coming in all guns blazing and then letting all the air out of their balloon a bit too early. Well this is what I hope will happen otherwise, and it pains me to say this, I see England winning.
    France, well any comments I make on them would just be repeating whats all ready been said nothing original to add basically they are a bit of an enigma.
    Wales, always good to watch and I think I will support them against any team but Ireland, even when they play badly they are exciting to watch.
    Scotland - wooden spoon don't think they will get the collective fingers out this year if only they could an Ireland, Wales, Scotland 1,2,3 finish would be nice though it won't happen.
    Italy - This is their year at least 2 wins, Scotland and England.
    Ireland - well I think without the injuries , Bowe, Trimble, Heaslip, Hayes, Murphy and Kearney. Missing alot of experianced players there, we may struggle to get a top to position. But being completely bias I predict an Irish win, though the lack of a solid back 3 may just hold us back from the GrandSlam so it will finish off like this
    1. Ireland
    2. France
    3. Wales
    4. Italy
    5. England
    6. Scotland

  • Comment number 51.

    'MCFWINN'

    "You sound like a welshman. A VERY annoying welshman"

    No i am english (with a fair bit of irish blood mind you).
    I just dont see how anyone could think England are by far the best team in this years 6 nations. As far as i am concerned there is very little to choose between all of the teams apart from Italy.

  • Comment number 52.

    I think you will find England will steamroller everyone, we have an amazing depth of young quality talent in our squad that all other nations including France would envy.
    English Lions will do the Grand Slam, ideal little warm up before we reclaim our World Cup in New Zealand.

  • Comment number 53.

    All the teams have produced some great games over the last few months. I think it will be the closest finish for years. I will be hoping for an Ireland win, Scotlasnd to play as well as they did v S Africa & Italy to give a good account of themselves. As for a platform for the world cup I think the platform will be for spectator purposes only as New Zealand will win without breaking sweat.

  • Comment number 54.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 55.

    No CHAVin Henson this year. Whoo hoo.

    I'm raising a glass to BoD who has come off the fence and said Henson hasn't done anything. Can we all grow some and agree that the Orange One is nothing short of an arrogant idiot who brings the sport we love down a level with his dummy spitting and bar room "do you know who I am" antics?!

    Roll on 6 Nations. Will it reveal any pedigree for the WC? I doubt it unless one team goes all the way playing sustained rugby by the numbers with some flash thrown in.

    Shame about the injuries affecting England and Wales. Hope it doesn't take anything away from what is year on year a classic encounter.

    See you all in the Pub!

  • Comment number 56.

    As a Scot I'm worried about Ewan Murray being absent for the games played on a Sunday. He's one of our few real world class players and will be a massive miss for us as he occupies such a curcial position.

    Should be close but as ever it will be teams with 3 home matches that will challenge for the title. This needs sorting out.

  • Comment number 57.

    I agree with the thought that this will be a closely fought Six Nations, however I believe England should just do the job even if they miss out on the Grand Slam. I must admit to a desire to see Italy do well, I feel that they can beat any of the other teams if effort alone counted but just need a little polish (and luck) or am I being ruled by my heart?
    By the way, I am not italian or connected in any way I just admire their pluck!

  • Comment number 58.

    I love the banter that Rugby fans have, far more civilised than nonsence you get on the football blogs. Oh yeah
    COME ON WALES!!!!!

  • Comment number 59.

    "Why is the Wales England game on a Friday? Grrr. It really annoys me!"

    No problems chris, just sign over your teams TV rights to Sky and you can play on Saturday. The rest of us will just schedule Ireland v France or Wales V Ireland at the same time as your saturday match against Romania.

  • Comment number 60.

    What hope is there for Italy to ambush Ireland in Rome? Given it's the first match, why not?! Forza Italia!

  • Comment number 61.

    Ambushes, indeed. I can see that some punters will be turning to drink. I certainly agree that there will be surprises, and Italy is good for at least one of them on the back of early disruptions - Scotland too. I think that the Welsh disruptions are grave, as well as Ireland's, and might account for more than one unexpected defeat. And who knows whether the French will amaze or disappoint amazingly? At this point England look like certainties for the top spot, but they've been remarkably inventive in finding ways to disappoint over the past few years, too. I won't be betting on - or against - anything, 'though I'll be hoping for evidence that there will be a northern hemisphere team in the *R*E*A*L*L*L*Y B*I*G* final later this year. Cheers.

  • Comment number 62.

    Speaking as a Scot (as well as possibly wanting to get in on/start some banter) i agree with w main (47).

    This board and the comments like most year are fairly anti-scotland. Given the recent form Scotland have been on i think that we warrant more credit than has been given towards how people think we will fair in the coming 6N tournament. Yes we got humped by new zealand and scoring tries isn't our forte but we still get the results. As mentioned above if we play like we did in the Autumn tests and as we did for the start of last years Wales game We do stand a good chance in this tournament, maybe not to get a grand slam but i feel that we definitely warrant a prediction above 5th/6th spot.

    In regards to the above mentioned "arrogant English" tag, I do somehow agree that English do come off as arrogant, I think its such a high level of confidence in thinking that your team and players are so unbeatable, because of recent form be it good or bad(having a point to prove) and that each year the team and management is the new wonder team for england that will lead them to glory, as well as failing to recognise achievements of other teams such as Scotland. Which i think could mainly be down to the way sport is portrayed in the English Media

  • Comment number 63.

    I'm a traditionalist, and at least the kits look traditional this year. Except Wales who look like they should be trotting out at the Emirates Stadium not the Millenium Stadium !

  • Comment number 64.

    63. brisbanejack

    Tell me about the kits! My Birthday falls during the first 6N week so Ive asked for an official replica every year since I can remember (I dont even need to ask now), but the quality of the last 2 years Welsh kits has been so dire I will be asking for Mr Cotton's replicas from now on. Come on WRU, bring back the jersey!

  • Comment number 65.

    Injuries will have a part to play this year which is very unfortunate. As an Irish man, this has a particular impact on our chances. I think that rather than dwell on this we can view it as an opportunity to blood some of the young talent who have certainly been holding their hands up during the H-cup. I for one am not going to dwell any more on our absentees (i promise) and look forward to some promising performances from our newer recruits.

    I do love this time of year. C'mon Ireland, followed closely by England, then Scotland, then who cares!

  • Comment number 66.

    As a Scot, currently living in New Zealand, I feel that wherever and whenever Scotland play the are always considered as "also ran's". However, and I am sure many people say this every year, Scotland are by far the most under-rated team in the Six Nations tournament. Having beaten South Africa, only a week after being humped by New Zealand, shows the resiliance and belief that is in the Scottish teams mindset. A team should not and cannot be defined by one result alone. The lack of tries may be a slight concern but with 2 proven goal kickers in Chris Paterson and Dan Parks included in the squad, it is still only a SLIGHT concern, and it is results that matter, however scrappy they may come. As for pointing out Andy Robinson's comment about being at our best: "But if we are not at our best, we get beat," surely this should be the mentally of all the coaches, who will want to get the best out of their teams in all games, especially in a WC year. Realistically, I don't think Scotland will win, although, with 3 games at home this year and a young, eager, and ever improving squad, Scotland can, and should, be a force pushing for at least a top 4, if not top 3 finish. Maybe even a Triple Crown to boot! On my views at to who will win? France.
    Looking forward to a good one though!

  • Comment number 67.

    Re #52, Sting Thundercock - (the name says it all). You've got a lot of pent up arrogance, you could bottle it and sell it. Or exchange it for a bit of humility. Where is this "amazing depth of young quality talent" coming through you think will "steamroller everyone"? England may have a few decent players coming through to their "elite" squad but not all of them are young (25-30, and a lot of these already have 20+ caps) and aside from these it's really only Youngs, Ashton and maybe Lawes who could automatically be put into the first 15. As for the whole England team, they certainly aren't unbeatable.
    Grand Slam and WC - don't put any money on it.

  • Comment number 68.

    #8 Chris

    "Scotland - I still feel anger at you for settling for a draw against us last year. Fair enough, you knew it meant we couldn't win the tournament as a result and that gave you and your fans great satisfaction... However, you had posession, at home, in front of your die hard fans and you kicked for touch at the first opportunity to settle for a draw. You can say what you want, but in my eyes that is defeatist and therefore disgraceful. Surely there are some Scots out there that found that decision wrong?! I'm looking forward to getting revenge on you, not just at Twickenham, but in Auckland too."

    Chris, I can understand that you're slightly annoyed at us settling for the draw in that match, but to understand why we did that you have to look at things from our perspective and look back at previous events in last years championship. If you remember the Wales v Scotland game which Scotland threw away, the scores were level going into overtime. What with having only 13 men on the field, you'd have thought we'd kick it straight out. But we didn't. And thus lost the game. We should have settled for the draw there but didn't and when we found ourselves in the same situation against England, we certainly weren't going to make the same mistake twice! And there is your explanation for what happened!

  • Comment number 69.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 70.

    I lived in Cardiff in the early 70s. The atmosphere in the days leading up to and including match day was brilliant. Welsh people are rugby mad ,it is the number one sport by some distance ( like NZ )
    Best memory of that time. I'd just finished a night shift and was cycling home at 6.30am. As I rode past Cardiff castle there was an obviously drunk Welshman still celebrating a Welsh win the day before by taking conversions with a tin can (as Phil Bennet I think). Total nutter

  • Comment number 71.

    Hey, StagRugby! Re comment no. 50 ...

    1. Ireland - 2. France - 3. Wales - 4. Italy - 5. England - 6. Scotland

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!

    Top three will be a permutation of Scotland, France & England (preferably in the order stated). I see Wales with the wooden spoon this year, with Italy beating both Ireland and Wales.



  • Comment number 72.

    I'm a really optimistic Scot this year - was it not us who gave SA a run for their money in the autumn internationals? I think if the squad remember the bad beats (New Zealand Cough..cough...) and the wins over really strong sides I think we can do much much better than the wooden spoon this year!

    Oh, and we'll be coming down to Twickenam fighting ;)

    May have been a draw on home soil last year but we're out for a win this year!

  • Comment number 73.

    Come on boys! England are by far and away the best team in the competition. They have strength in depth and class in every position. The Welsh keep bleating that they have injuries etc but thats the ups and downs of rugby.
    My prediction:
    1. England
    2. Ireland
    3. France
    4. Scotland
    5. Wales
    6. Italy

    And before the boyos start with thechip on the shoulder thing... I'm English and living in Australia. I have no axe to grind but constantly hear an inferiority complex from you all. Accept it... Gareth Edwards and the 1970's Wales are ancient history.

  • Comment number 74.

    As an English type currently residing in Australia, I have been following the home nations rugby with interest. Can someone tell me why it is next to impossible to see the England home matches live?

    I predict the following for the 6N
    1. England
    2. France
    3. Ireland
    4. Scotland
    5. Wales
    6. Italy

    with England making the RWC finals later in the year.

  • Comment number 75.

    ruckinggreat: You can see them all live this year starting Saturday morning at 0630 hrs on ESPN.

  • Comment number 76.

    Some absolutely shocking biased comments on this blog- come on England fans I know you are patriotic but show some realism!

    18 years of dominance- "England-By far the best team in the tourney, showed it against the tri nation teams " Purleeeze that is just silly let's try and keep comments within the bounds of sanity!

    England are an improving team I will grant you that- they did perform quite well in the November Internationals but let's no forget they are friendlies you would be better to look at their finishing record in the last 6 years in the 6N- how many championships/Grand slams have you won. Add in to the mix that you only have two teams in the quarter finals of the Heineken Cup, with a huge base of players to choose from compared to the three Celtic nations & Italy and you should be starting to gain some sense of perspective of your chances of winning the championship this year. 2nd place for the English.

    Wales- without injuries to two of the best props in the world in their positions I really thought you had a chance but 5th place is the best I can see for the Welsh this time around I'm afraid. At least Henson is not involved or else it could be the spoon.

    Scotland- This could be their best year for some time in this competition there are really good signs there of a real collective improvement in the team. It seems an eternity now that players like Finley Calder were bullying the might of the English and French around the park. Tip them 4th this time around.

    Italy- Not much there to make me think they can avoid the spoon again sorry Italy. Spoon again!

    France- WHO KNOWS??? I cannot answer this as they are such an enigma they will be very very strong up front, although November internationals did them no favours remember they own the quarter finals on a country to country basis and they have some beasts in their pack(Servat, Harinoriquay, Dusautoir etc) and their backline is awesome Medard could be a real star in the world cup..3rd place for the French!

    Ireland- Last but not least the Irish...Injury ravaged in the last two weeks but the spine of the team very much still there. If Heaslip & Bowe return in time for France they could be contenders as they have England and France in Landsdowne road(ditch the Aviva name traditionalist's) Séan O'Brien is THE best player in Europe on this years form, an animal with gargantuan strength who could really set the world alight in NZ next summer. BOD and POC, come on we need you to get the boys in green motoring, gain momentum and give the WC a good shot. Prediction- no grand slam but the championship winners..


    Good luck to one and all who ever you are supporting!

  • Comment number 77.

    standing at the end of the 6nt
    wales=g/s
    scotland
    france
    ireland
    italy
    england

  • Comment number 78.

    1-Wales
    2-France
    3-Ireland
    4-England
    5-Scotland
    6-Italy

  • Comment number 79.

    @73
    I agree England are in form and have good strength in depth, and if you bothered to read the posts above you'd notice most of the Welsh fans admitting we have little chance this year.
    Oh, and when was the last time you won?? 2003. Us?? 2005 & 2008 Grand Slams....

    Aaaaanyway. I still think the Welsh (coming from a Welshman) are going to struggle. Injuries always hit us hard with our lack of options but it's the people that are injured that will hurt.

    As for the Scotland debate I put them at 5th. I hope I'm wrong, I really do. But frankly if you continue to kick the ball (Parks, I'm looking at you!) then close games will be lost. This Scotland team showed their class against SA and should have much confidence.

    Let's be honest here, if Scotland want to win it then the first game is where it will be won. France, in Paris. If Scotland can win this they will be brimming with confidence, have beaten the reigning champions on their own turf and will welcome Wales to Murrayfield with their eyes firmly on the trophy.

    Lose the first game and it's going to be mid-table finish

  • Comment number 80.

    To be honest I think the competition is wide open this year:

    England- Yes they dominated Australia, but what happened the Samoa game after? They struggled. Hopefully they will be more consistent and play like they did against Australia.
    Wales- If they play a more diverse game they could be in with a chance. Their game has become far too predictable and is why teams are ripping them apart. Warren its time for a change.
    Ireland- Lots of experience all around team has been together for a long time. Just need to find that spark again.
    Scotland- Need to pull the game tighter and fight harder. Get there huge ball carriers to push up field and please please Dan Parks, keep it in the hand and go for the try instead DG every time. Lots of skill out in the backs time to use it and not fumble.
    Italy- Some new players might bring something good to the Italians, hopefully the new scrum half will bring some command and push the team forward to a few wins.
    French- well what can be said, French rugby is getting bigger and bolder all the time. Maybe see some magic from the French. They will be itching to get a full set of wins at home.

  • Comment number 81.

    I admit to being English, sometimes proud of it other times ashamed of it but before you form an opinion, I would just like to say I love the game of Rugby (Union), and some of my happiest memories are of when I played at school and club (way back), and the many heroes that have come and gone!
    I don't always care who the teams are that are locking horns as long as they play entertaining and exiting rugby.
    Heroes still come from all 6 nations: Patterson, Wilkinson, O'Driscol, Shane Williams, Serge Blanco etc.etc. but they get old and retire. Young players need icons to aspire to in EVERY rugby nation but it takes time, dedication, guts and above all a passion to play for their country. So please don't insult them.
    I still get a lump in my throat when each national anthem is sung, no matter which nation, just watching the pride on their faces!
    You can write off any of the current 6 nations involved but it's ALL of them that give us this fantastic competition.
    Surely no passionate rugby supporter would want the same nation to predictably win year on year - where's the challenge, the exitement, the confrontations, the sheer nail-biting finishes?
    ALL these lads are tough, proud, true sportsmen but also gentlemen who ALL deserve to win.
    We should be encouraging every country so all rugby supporters can enjoy watching an even more exiting tournament, as I do - ALL GAMES!!

    OK sermon over! I wish all teams success and all supporters an enjoyable tournament no matter what colour!

  • Comment number 82.

    Ashton should grow up. Not everyone enjoys his arrogant nonsense ... and the BBC should not be complicit in highlighting his stupid diving. Who does he think he is? Not good.

 

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