“The Rugby Voice”
Profile: Rugby Enthusiast and Season Ticket holder at..?? Writer, Philosopher, Poet, Linguist, Traveller, Adventurer, Archeologist, Code-Breaker, Journalist, Investigator, Mathematician, Logician, Democrat. “Beauty is truth, truth beauty; that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”.
That’s right, it’s that time of year again, time for the greatest annual rugby competition of them all: the Six Nations. Every year it brightens those miserable cold wet winter afternoons with unforgettable exhibitions of passion, cheating, quizzical looks at referees from outmuscled props, Welsh male voice choirs, and the occasional flash of rugby brilliance.
So in what many predict will be the most open and unpredictable competition for years, we’re taking a forensic look at who will win.
Let’s start by clearing something up. It’s actually the Four Nations to all intents and purposes, as neither Italy nor Scotland can win it. Sure, these two plucky soccer-playing nations (although even that description is now inaccurate for Italy) will provide a modicum of entertainment and perhaps even the occasional try, but there’s not a cat in Hell’s chance of them winning it. Italy because they’ve got only one decent player and Scotland because they can only win at home, unless they’re playing Italy. So let’s take a more detailed look at each team in ascending order of where they’ll finish:
Last – Italy
As mentioned they have only one decent player – Parisse – and sadly he can’t win games on his own, although he regularly tries. On top of that they’re away to Ireland, France and Wales – in succession – and they won’t get much change out of those three games. Their one hope for points is in their last game, at home to a demoralised Scotland (who will have promised much but delivered nothing). They’ll be desperate to avoid getting no wins yet again, especially with long overdue talk of promotion and relegation belatedly on the agenda.
Stand out player: guess who?
5th – Scotland
Two home games, against France and England, and away to Italy, so as discussed their maximum is 3 wins. Under Gregor Townsend they’ve been playing some half decent rugby, and it’s clearly not inconceivable that they beat France. The big test will be the home game against England in Round 3. Better England teams than this one have lost at Murrayfield to worse Scotland teams than this one – and on their day – if England don’t turn up and they let the pressure of being the Auld Enemy get to them – Scotland might just sneak it. But I wouldn’t bet on it. They will clearly lose away to France and Ireland.
Stand out player: Stuart Hogg
4th – Wales
Under Gatland they may be very boring, and rather stupidly not playing to their strengths (anyone seen Scarlets in the Champions Cup?), but they seem to be just about over their traditional “As long as we beat England we don’t care” approach that never got them anywhere, not even when they beat England. “Grow up boyos” has finally sunk in. If they did play like the Scarlets, they might even have an outside chance of winning the whole thing, but being away to England and Ireland doesn’t help them. They’ll beat Italy, of course, which means whether they finish above Scotland or not depends on the result between the two of them – and since that’s in Cardiff it’s a no brainer.
Stand out player: Justin Tipuric
3rd – France
It’s unthinkable, really, but France finally seem to have picked a coach who picks their best players. This innovative approach should pay dividends, especially with 3 home games. The thing about France is – and we’re confident that others may have noticed this over the years – you never know who’s going to turn up. And usually neither do they. A team that can take New Zealand apart, or a team that loses to an under-strength Georgia? You tell me! Anyway, we fancy them to come away with wins against Scotland, Ireland (albeit that’ll be a close one), and then Italy, leaving their last two fixtures (home to England and away to Wales) standing between them and a Grand Slam. Clearly they’ll blow it.
Stand out player: either a mercurial 17 year old fly half that no-one’s ever heard of or a 23 stone centre whose name no-one can pronounce
2nd – Ireland
It was a close one to call, between Ireland and England, but I opted for England to win overall a) because the game between the two is at Twickenham and b) because I’m English (for which I make no apologies). They’re a bloody good outfit though, superbly marshalled by their half backs and with a mean and nasty pack of green orcs on steroids. In fact I’m almost tempted to predict they’ll come on top, but my love of this Land of Hope and Glory just about prevails.
Stand out player: Jonny Sexton
England – Champions
Ravaged by injuries, Premiership Clubs comprehensively outcoached, outthought and outplayed in Europe, and with 3 away games, this could be a tough year for England. But they’re long on confidence, on the back of an excellent run of games under Eddie Jones, and have almost forgotten how to lose. Almost but not quite. I expect them to struggle against everyone except poor Italy, but scrape at least four wins. A Grand Slam is possible but unlikely, they’ll lose to one or both of Scotland and France.
Stand out player: Owen Farrell