Saturday will see the start of the Six Nations Championship when last season’s winners Wales travel to face Ireland. Also, on Saturday Scotland open up their campaign against England at Murrayfield. Sunday will see the French play their opening match when they face Italy in Paris.

Reigning champions Wales were outstanding 12 months ago

The reigning champions Wales were outstanding 12 months ago after a poor 2020. The side stormed to a Triple Crown title beating all the other home nations, with winger Louis Rees-Zammit one of the stars of the side.

Wales will be hampered in their quest for back-to-back titles after losing the services of captain Alun Wyn Jones to injury. The Welsh will be captained by fly-half Dan Biggar, for the first time for Wayne Pivac’s side.

Lock Adam Beard has been named as vice-captain and with numerous stars from the 2021 title returning, Wales will be keen to hold on to their crown.

Not the best build up for the current holders

However, the side come into the tournament having lost to New Zealand and South Africa but have beaten Australia in the winter internationals. The bar could well be set if the Welsh can overcome Ireland in Dublin on the opening weekend of the tournament.

Eddie Jones’s England side go into the tournament keen to put aside their poor performance twelve months ago. Registering only two victories was a massive disappointment from the men in white shirts who clearly underperformed.

After a disappointing six nations last time around, England looking for a better tournament

Nonetheless, England shrugged aside the disappointment of the Six Nations by finishing the end of the year strongly. Wins against Tonga 69-3, Australia 32-15 and South Africa 27-26 proved England can bounce back.

Coach Eddie Jones announced his squad earlier this week but was dealt a huge blow when captain Owen Farrell was ruled out of the tournament with an ankle injury. Six uncapped players feature in the squad with the stage set for Harlequins exciting youngster Marcus Smith to start at number 10. Smith’s teammate Alex Dombrandt could also feature predominantly in the tournament in the back row.

England up against Wales and Ireland at Twickenham

England will face both Wales and Ireland at Twickenham before finishing the tournament in Paris. A tough ask for Eddie’s troops, but you can never write off his side who when their backs are against the wall, they normally deliver.

France looked on course to claim the 2021 Six Nations trophy but lost out to a Scotland side who defeated them. However, Autumn wins over Georgia, Argentina and the All Blacks suggests that France will be the side to beat.

France, the side to beat

With scrum half Antoine Dupont- the player of the tournament in 2020- returning and the outstanding fly -half Romain Ntamack, this side look world class. Cameron Woki looks a possible superstar for the future alongside number 8 Gregory Alldritt.

All and all this French side look strong in all departments and will take a lot of beating.

Opening the tournament with a home game against Italy should see a comfortable five points on the board. Two tough home matches against Ireland and England will test the French, but overall, they look the side that could win their first Six Nations since 2010.

Don’t rule out the Irish

After a strong win against England, Ireland eventually finished last year in third place. The Irish finished the year strongly with dominant performances over Argentina and Japan and yet another historic win against the All Blacks.

Fly-half Johnny Sexton will captain Ireland for a third successive Six Nations after reaching 100 caps against Japan last November.

Andy Farrell’s side will fancy their chances at home to Scotland, Wales and Italy, but having to travel to England and France could prove troublesome.

Can the Scots build on last seasons campaign?

Scotland had a very good Six Nations campaign in 2021. The Scots recorded historic away wins against England and France but fell short against Wales and Ireland. A mixed Autumn series saw both good and bad performances which sums up Scotland.

For Scotland to be consistent, they need the likes of Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell to be firing in every game of the tournament.

Another wooden spoon for the Italians

Not the first time, Italy’s 2021 Six Nations campaign was pretty dire, with no points scored for the third year running. The Azzurri have now finished with the wooden spoon for six years running.

Former All Black and World Cup winner Kieran Crowley was appointed head coach in the summer and promptly oversaw Italy’s first victory in two years, a 17-10 win over Uruguay.

The Italian squad of 33 is mostly dominated by players from Bennetton, with 23 named. The Azzurri have the daunting task of traveling to Paris for their opening match in the tournament and how they perform there will tell us more about this young side.