Thursday, February 2, 2017

In which I show you how Ireland will win the Grand Slam. Probably!


Yes, get in, the 6 Nations is finally here. After the longest January in history, ever, officially, the calendar has creaked around to February, and there's three great games to look forward to. But first a little preview of the form of the teams going into the 6 Nations.

Ireland are in a good place right now - a fantastic Autumn series, when unless you live under rock and haven't heard, we beat the mighty All Blacks1 The confidence from that win has surged through the team, and back down through the provinces. We have a great coach in Joe Schmidt, an awesome coach. We have players with a lot of experience like Murray, Best  Heaslip and Zebo, and fantastic new young talent like Furlong and Ringrose. We've got good depth, and really only one concern, at fly half. Sexton is out, and Paddy Jackson is starting, which is grand, he's been playing really well for Ireland, and has been the one bright spot in Ulster's dismal season. But on the bench is Ian Keatley - maybe Joe can sprinkle his magic fairy dust and turn him into a brilliant fly half, but really, if Jackson gets injured early, I'm going to take the dogs for a good long walk and be back in time for the England France match. After this match though, we'll have Sexton back and other options coming on stream. So Grand Slam it is!

England will be favorites to retain their title, they're unbeaten since the World Cup, and have lots of confidence, and plenty of depth. They have the Vunipola brothers missing, both serious units, but England have plenty of serious units. Another year down, the other teams will have worked out a few weak spots to target, but everyone is going to have to be at their best to stop that unbeaten run. Runners up to Ireland!

Italy have Connor O'Shea installed...but still are really in the tournament to even up the numbers. Wooden Spoon battle with Scotland beckons.

France are the dark horse, ( cheval noir?) (oui, je dit French, c'est rien!) as ever. They could easily beat England this weekend, and just as easily lose to Italy. And for Ireland's chances, I hope they do! They played some fantastic rugby in the Autumn, and could win the 6N, but will probably be third.

Scotland are up and coming, great coach, lots of confidence, good players. But they still seem to lose matches they should  reallywin, it's tough when you only have two teams to pick from. Fourth or fifth I'd say.

Finally Wales, who are a puzzling side, delivering less than the sum of their parts. Maybe this 6N will turn it around for them, but otherwise, fourth or fifth.

So this weekend, I have Ireland by a whisker, based on their defense (although I will be watching from behind the couch), England just in what should be smashing match, and Wales just. Enjoy!

Saturday 4th February
RBS Six Nations
Scotland 14:25 Ireland
England 16:50 France
Sunday 5th February
Italy 14:00 Wales

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