Saturday will see the return of the Six Nations tournament with Italy facing France in Rome and England entertaining Scotland. The event that always brings plenty of excitement to World Rugby, with the never-ending question, just who will be crowned Six Nations Champions 2021?
Following the Covid-19 postponed Six Nations 2020 tournament, there will be strict safety protocols. While there was a lengthy interval last season, tournament organisers hope this years Six Nations will run smoothly.
Last season’s Champions weren’t known until the final day
Last seasons Six Nations went right down to the wire as England managed to triumph. This after losing to France in the opening match. However, England were crowned champions narrowly as the event was decided by points difference.
England will head into the tournament as firm favourites, with the French second favourites in most bookmakers lists.
Let’s take a look at all six sides.
Only once in the last ten campaigns have England not finished in the top two. That was back in 2018 when Ireland were completing a grand slam.
Once again Eddie Jones has named a very strong unit that will certainly be there or there abouts.
However, the one weakness that England may have appears to be in the front row. Mako Vunipola, Kyle Si9nckler and Joe Marler are all out and with Joe Launchbury and Sam Underhill out this will be a concern for England.
The big plus for England has to be the three games at home, which on paper are winnable. Scotland and Italy first up in the opening two rounds should see two wins. Although Wales in Cardiff will be a tougher challenger, the key game in the tournament looks like being England’s game against France.
That could well end up being a winner takes all contest before England finish the tournament away in Dublin against Ireland.
A side that looked the best unit in the recent Autumn Internationals which happened to be a second-string squad were very impressive. If anybody is going to run England close it will be this group of players.
France admittedly will be missing Romain Ntamack and Viremi Vakatawa which are big losses. Demba Bamba and Cameron Woki are also out of the side.
The pressure will certainly be on this talented French unit who went through 2020 winning eight games out of nine.
France will commence their campaign away at Italy before a trip to Dublin to face Ireland. Round three will see the French back at Paris to face Scotland before the epic encounter with England at Twickenham.
Andy Farrell lo0oks to have named a decent squad of players for the forthcoming tournament. With the likes of CJ Stander, Tahd Furlong, Robbie Henshaw and Jonny Sexton Ireland will certainly be competitive.
Ireland open up their campaign in Cardiff against Wales on Sunday. The Irish then host France in Dublin before a trip to Rome to face the Italians.
For Ireland their key fixture has to be the final round of matches when they face England at home. If Ireland are in with a chance of lifting the tournament with the England game to go, expect a rousing game in Dublin.
We say it every year that surely the Italian will finally win a game in the Six Nations. Certainly, there have been signs of a steady improvement from Italy, but they still lack the killer touch to win a game.
Last year Italy were conceding an average of five tries per game and only once managed more than 20 points scored.
Coach Franco Smith is once again focusing mainly on the youngsters. Monty Ioane and Marco Zanon are two hard men to stop and look good players. The talented half back Paolo Garbisi looks one to watch as well.
Italy will be hampered with the absence of Matteo Minozzi the high scoring full back which is a real body blow to them.
The Italians open up their campaign against France in Rome, not the easiest of starts for anybody.
Gregor Townsend will be hoping and praying that Finn Russell keeps fit during the next few weeks for the Scots. Such a key and influential player, Russell is always the man that makes Scotland tick.
Scotland have already lost Adam Hastings through injury which is another blow to Townsend’s side.
Having to play England first up at Twickenham is always a daunting prospect. Scotland’s chances in the tournament could well depend on how that opening match goes. Lose that one and they could well struggle, win it and an unpredictable Scotland could well put on a strong showing for the rest of the tournament.
Wales have recalled 33-year-old Dam Lydiate for the forthcoming Six Nations. There are also recalls for Adam Beard and Rhodri Jones to a Welsh team who have struggled of late.
Wales open up against Ireland in Cardiff before travelling to Murrayfield to face Scotland. Having no fans at Cardiff against England in Round 3 certainly wont help the Welsh before travelling to Rome and Paris to conclude their campaign.