Well, the 2012 Six Nations kicks off this weekend, with 3 enticing matches, 2 of which are rematches from last year’s World Cup. And the 3rd match featured a surprising upset in last year’s 6 Nations.
Firstly, France host Italy, than England travel to Murrayfield to face Scotland. Both games are on Saturday. Than, there’s what many believe is the most important game of the weekend, when Wales play Ireland.
Italy, of course, actually beat France when the 2 teams played in last year’s Six Nations. A lot has changed since that time, though, mainly to France. It’s Amazing to think that France actually made it to the final of the World Cup last year, given all their problems.
France were in complete disarray last year, with in-fighting between player’s and coach Lievermont, and between the player’s themselves. Now, they have a new coach in Phillipe Saint-Andre, and, it’s hoped, that all the problems are behind them.
A lot of pundits are looking for France to win the 6 Nations this year (odds on them winning the tournament are 11/8), and they have a very impressive side, consisting of most of the player’s that featured in the World Cup final and any new personnel seem to be looked on as been improvements.
France also have one of the best captain’s in world rugby, in Thierry Dusautoir, who’s one of the best flankers in the world, as well. Hopefully, France will be able to re-awaken the great flair they’re so well known for and we’ll see some exciting rugby from them. If they can almost win a World Cup while imploding, imagine what a fully cohesive French side would be capable of!
The win against France was the highlight of Italy’s season last year. I find it difficult to believe that they’ll be able to repeat their feat this time around. Odds on Italy winning the 6 Nations are 200-1.
Scotland v England is an intriguing game, for many reasons. For one, England beat Scotland in the World Cup last year, which denied Scotland a place in the quarter-finals, so Scotland will be looking to avenge that.
Another reason is that this match is taking place in Murrayfield, where England haven’t won since 2004, so England will be looking to put an end to that record.
The main reason why this match will be interesting is all the changes that English rugby have gone through since that game. It’s in a complete state at the moment.
Many of the coaching staff from the World Cup have been let go, and a number of player’s are also absent, whether from injury, loss of form, retirement, or even, problems with the law!
England have a completely new set-up this year, a number of new caps, completely different combinations, a very new captain (Chris Robshaw, in his 2nd cap, though he’s very highly praised by his coach at Harlequins, Conor O’Shea).
England also have a new coach in Stuart Lancaster.
England actually won the 6 Nations tournament, last year, let’s not forget. And, despite all their problems, they still have some pretty good players. Ben Foden is one of the best full-backs in the world at the moment, and Chris Ashton is a dangerous finisher. Ben Youngs is a very good scrum-half as well.
Scotland have a better, experienced team, though, across the board. They’ll also be encouraged by the great form of Edinburgh in this year’s Heineken. Conversely, England won’t be too happy about their club’s poor run of form, with only Sarcens making it through to the last 8.
I think the Scots may just keep their winning streak alive and beat England. The betting odds are England (9/2) and Scotland (25-1) on winning the championship. The odds on who will win the match, though, are Eng (8/11) and Scot (5/4).
Finally, we come to Ireland’s game against Wales, on Sunday. Declan Kidney has picked his team for the game, and it looks to be a very strong team. Keith Earls has just had to back out of the team, for personal reasons, so Fergus McFadden replaces him, with David Kearney moving on to the bench.
15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Fergus McFadden, 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Paul O’Connell (capt), 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tom Court, 18 Donnacha Ryan, 19 Peter O’Mahony, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Ronan O’Gara, 22 David Kearney.
Ireland will be without Brian O’Driscoll for the whole tournament, of course, though it’s probably better that we get used to playing without him. McFadden is a very good player and should function well with his Leinster team-mate D’Arcy.
Jonny Sexton gets the nod ahead of O’Gara, which I think is a good call. I think O’Gara is more effective coming on late in the game, where he can really punish the opposition.
Donncha O’Callaghan gets the nod to partner, captain Paul O’Connell in the second-row. O’Callaghan will need to put in a great performance if he wants to play there for the whole tournament. Donncha Ryan has been having a great season for Munster.
This is the first time that the 2 team’s will be playing since Wales knocked Ireland out of the World Cup, in a tremendous display. Wales had a great season last year and will be wanting to build on that.
Unfortunately for them, they are missing some of their key player’s, especially Gethin Jenkins at prop. Alun Wyn-Jones at second row is also a loss. They do have some world-class players’ though, with Jaimie Roberts at centre (he’ll be a test for McFadden) and Phillips at scrum-half.
Wales and Ireland are probably the 2 most evenly matched teams in the whole 6 Nations, and this match can go either way. I’m rooting for Ireland of course. I also believe that whichever team wins on Sunday will make a serious challenge for the 6 Nations title (I don’t think there will be Grand Slam this year).
Betting odds are: Ireland to win match (4/9), Wales to win (2-1). Wales are 10/3 to win 6 Nations, while Ireland are 4-1. I don’t really understand betting, to be honest.