With the Six Nations just a few short weeks away, anticipation is building as the sides gradually announce their final squads and fans try to call a winner, frantically scanning the rugby union odds. Wales come into this one as the defending champions, but it’s been five years since we’ve seen a team retain their title — as England won back-to-back Six Nations in 2016 and 2017.
The race for the trophy looks as competitive as ever, with a clear favourite certainly hard to call due to the unpredictability of the tournament. Read on, as we make some early predictions for this year’s Six Nations.
Italy finally get a win
It really is hard to believe that Italy have been without a win in the Six Nations since 2015. Despite having a strong team, things just haven’t gone well for the Azzurri in recent times, and the past few competitions have surely been etched from the memory of Italian fans. Whether the performances have been good or not, the task is with New Zealand’s Kieran Crowley to deliver a more respectable finish in the table this time round.
There are plenty of young players coming through the ranks that have caught the eye domestically in recent months, none more so than Paolo Garbisi. The Montpellier man will be integral to his side’s success and despite being just 21-years-old, certainly has experience at the top level which could prove invaluable for an Italian win.
Injuries may cost the Welsh
It has certainly been a tough time for Wales where injuries are concerned. On paper, they definitely have a squad that is capable of retaining their title, and considering the holders played have played so well towards the end of the Autumn internationals, with wins over Fiji and Australia, it is a shame Wayne Pivac doesn’t have more players at his disposal. First team captain Alun Wyn Jones is side lined, as well as Ken Owens, Taulupe Faletau and Dan Lydiate among others.
The responsibility now lies on the senior members of the Wales squad, with Northampton Saints fly-half Dan Biggar the man taking over captaincy. The uncertainty over team selection could mean Wales struggle to find their feet, but the 32-year-old has ensured that as proud as he is, there is still a job to do and other members of the squad are ready to come in and do a job. “It’s a short-term solution with a lot of boys out injured and a lot of senior boys missing.
“I am still really proud to be asked, to be seen in that regard by the coaches and it is something I’m looking forward to. I am really proud.” He said:“Obviously we’ve lost a lot of experience and a lot of caps in the lads who are missing, but that presents an opportunity for young lads, or boys in that middle tier to really step up and show leadership qualities”
France to go all the way
There were moments last year where France had an outside chance of winning the Six Nations, even towards the latter stages. Their dream of a first title in over a decade was plagued by inconsistency, but now you get the sense that everything has come together nicely, and Fabien Galthié has assembled a side capable of going to distance second time round. With Antoine Dupont, one of the players of the tournament last time out, named in the 42-man squad after injury concerns, the French have a terrifying side in principle — they just need to deliver the results worthy of champions to end that barren trophyless spell.