Published on January 28, 2014 | by Sean Coppack

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Preview: Six Nations championship

This season’s Six Nations championship, starting February 1, will be seen as an important measuring stick to see how the northern hemisphere nations are shaping up 18 months out from the biggest stage in rugby – the rugby World Cup.

Wales rugby squad celebrating Six Nations championship decider at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

Wales celebrating last year’s Six Nations. [Flickr:Sum_of_Marc]

Reigning champions Wales will go into this year’s tournament as heavy favourites and looking to become the first nation to win the championship three times in a row.

Warren Gatland’s side have been imperious against northern hemisphere opposition in recent years and will be looking to continue in that vein.

The team’s biggest  goal for 2014 will be to break their hoodoo against the big three southern hemisphere teams, and so mark themselves out as legitimate World cup contenders.

Players to watch: George North, Leigh Halfpenny, Sam Warburton, Eli Walker.

Prediction:1st

Owen Farrell preparing for a kick in Ireland-England Six Nations match 2013

Owen Farrell will need to have his kicking boots on if England are going to capture their first championship in 11 years.[Flickr: Martin Dobey]

The transitional period following Stuart Lancaster’s appointment as head coach is over and a lot will be expected of England in this championship.

With the potent combination of youth and experience this squad will fancy their chances of bringing the Six Nations trophy back to Twickenham for the first time since 2003.

Players to watch: Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Geoff Parling.

Prediction: 2nd

Nicolas Mas with the ball for France against Ireland in the 2013 Six Nations.

Nicolas Mas on the charge against Ireland.[Flickr: Martin Dobey]

As usual with the French it’s very difficult to predict which team will turn up and they’re as likely to finish top as they are to finish bottom.

On paper, the 2011 World Cup runners up are the most talented team in the tournament, however with the Stade de France crowd on their back expect them to struggle and lose at least once at home this year.

Players to watch: Louis Picamoles, Mathieu Bastareaud, Remi Tales, Wesley Fofana

Prediction: 3rd

Irish team at Ireland France match Six Nations 2013

Ireland will be hoping for an improvement from previous championships. [Flickr:Martin Dobey]

After a sensational showing in the Autumn where they deserved to beat the ‘unbeatable’ 2013 All Blacks, many people are predicting a strong showing from the Irish in the 2014 tournament.

However, their performance in recent years against northern hemisphere has been nothing short of atrocious.

They were narrowly beaten to the wooden spoon by the French last year and with an ageing squad it will could be another difficult year for the boys in green.

Players to watch: Simon Zebo, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Paddy Jackson.

Prediction: 4th

Scotland winning a line-out against Italy in Six Nations 2012

The imperious Richie Gray winning a line-out for Scotland. [Flickr: Antonio Cinotti]

Scotland will be looking to build on an improved performance in last year’s Six Nations, in which they earned a creditable 3rd place behind Wales and England.

However, we are expecting the more traditional rugby powerhouses of Ireland and France to beat this young Scottish team this year.

If you’re a Scotland fan you can look forward to your side playing open, expansive rugby, with plenty of pace and technical skill the Scots will be great fun to watch. However, they will lose…regularly.

Players to watch: Stuart Hogg, Richie Grey, Alasdair Dickinson, David Denton.

Prediction: 5th

Sergio Parisse catching ball during Italy Scotland match Six Nations 2012

Italy’s lynchpin, Sergio Parisse. [Flickr: Antonio Cinotti]

“Boring journalist in Italy to finish bottom prediction!” I hear you say, but on a serious note, Italy will finish bottom. They have regressed from last season, having been overly reliant on an aging Sergio Parrisse, they need some young players to come through and take Italian rugby to another level, as of yet there’s no evidence these players exist.

Players to watch: Sergio Parisse, Martin Castrogiovanni, Alessandro Zanni

Prediction: 6th

 

 

 

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