04 Feb Wales for the Six Nations – Reggies Corner
Wales are my favorites for this year’s Six Nations
It’s that time of year again when anyone with any sort of rugby knowledge throws their hat in the ring and tries to come up with their prediction for the Six Nations Championship.
The tournament is easily the most anticipated annual event in world rugby, steeped in tradition and the envy (although they would never admit it) of the southern hemisphere teams.
To partake in this event is the pinnacle of most player’s careers and this week is easily the most nervous one of them all for anyone hoping to participate.
Players will be praying for inclusion in the initial squads that coaches pick because once you are in, it is far easier to impress and keep your place than to be on the outside looking in and hoping for an injury or a poor performance to give you your chance.
This year’s tournament is likely to be one of the most intriguing for a long time. Ireland come into the tournament as back to back holders of the title after some very dramatic scenes last year. Joe Schmidt is seen by many as a mastermind of preparing players and readying them to take on the challenges the other nations will throw at them. I feel this year however will be his greatest challenge.
A raft of injuries alongside some mediocre performances to date in key positions, will make his job, his most difficult yet. The Irish team always seems to find a different level when working under the Kiwi coaches’ instruction but there are so many unknowns this year that it is difficult to see us replicating the heroics of the last two years.
When looking at the other nations England have become most people’s favorites. The appointment of Eddie Jones and the unending wave of patriotism that English fans have for their team have pushed them there, but the truth is they are an untested and unproven outfit. Exactly how much effect Jones can have in such a short period of time is impossible to know. In essence the squad is mostly the same as the one Stuart Lancaster used and failed so miserably with in the World Cup.
This team’s biggest liability is their mental state. These players despite all the talk will not have forgotten the pain of that tournament and failure will still be fresh in their minds. They will be full of vim and vigor and thoughts of expelling demons. The real test of their mental state will be when the pressure comes on during a game, and it will, and how they react to that pressure. For me I don’t think they will be quite there yet.
Italy will put up their usual gallant performances and probably upset someone along the way but are not any form of real contenders. Scotland have unquestionably made massive strides in recent times under Cotter but their lack of depth throughout the squad in key positions leaves them unlikely to be real contenders for the duration of such a grueling competition.
The French are always a threat. New coach Guy Noves has brought in a lot of new names and is definitely trying to bring France back to a playing style that is more in line with that of a bygone era. Whether or not he has had enough time to change that mindset with the players and take them away from the boring power game that a lot of their clubs employ on a week to week basis is unknown. Add to that the fact they are playing Wales away from home and I think it pushes them out of contention.
For me the team with the best credentials are Wales. They have an experienced coach going into his ninth season in charge with a squad of very experienced and very talented players. They come into the tournament with the knowledge that they are facing an Irish team in the Aviva who are going through some transition and given the history between these two nations will have a clear target of turning the Irish over in their own backyard. Those chances don’t come along too often and Wales will be thinking no further ahead than that. A positive start away from home could really be the catalyst they need to go on and take this tournament.
They follow that game up with home matches against Scotland and France both of which I fancy them to win and they set themselves up for a potential tournament decider against England in Twickenham. Their easiest game is last, at home to Italy and potentially for the title.
The Six Nations is strange animal and that’s what makes it so great. Anyone can beat anyone on the day, but given all criteria I’ve laid out, Wales are the favorites for me!
“Come on Ireland, prove me wrong “