Rugby fans will get their first taste of international rugby action for the year when the 2021 Guinness 6 Nations kicks off on Saturday the 6th of January.
Image copyright – Steve Haag Sports
We’re in for a rather interesting 6 Nations this year with teams still adjusting to life under COVID-19 and navigating domestic seasons.
It should be a rather open tournament with the French and Irish looking like serious contenders to England’s thrown. We’ll take a look at how the teams are shaping up heading into the February 6th kick-off date.
To Win Tournament Outright
Saturday 6 February
Italy v France
England v Scotland
Sunday 7 February
Wales v Ireland
Saturday 13 February
England v Italy
Scotland v Wales
Sunday 14 February
Ireland v France
Saturday 27 February
Italy v Ireland
Wales v England
Sunday 28 February
France v Scotland
Saturday 13 March
Italy v Wales
England v France
Sunday 14 March
Scotland v Ireland
Saturday 20 March
Scotland v Italy
Ireland v England
France v Wales
Lay of the Land
2020 Finish: Champions
The reigning champions come into this one in good shape with their players enjoying solid domestic competition in the Gallagher Premiership.
Eddie Jones’ men had a decent time of it last year winning both the 6 Nations and Autumn Nations Cup, although it must be noted that they were run close by France in both of those tournaments.
While England weren’t – they managed seven wins from their nine fixtures but suffered a defeat and were also held to a draw by the French – as all-conquering last year as they had been in prior seasons, they were able to blood a number of new players and Eddie Jones is likely to chuck a couple new faces into his matchday squads this season as well as he looks ahead to the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
In terms of England’s draw for the tournament, the organizers have given them a rather tough test in the final week where they’ll take on the Irish at the Aviva. They have got somewhat lucky, however, as they’ll take on the French at Twickenham rather than the Stade de France.
2020 Finish: Runners-Up
Le Bleu had a great time of it last year finishing as runners-up in the 6 Nations and Autumn Nations Cup. They probably should have won one of those tournaments as they drew the Autumn Nations Cup Final with England but then went down in extra time, and a narrow defeat to the Scots at Murrayfield ruined their chances of 6 Nations glory.
The French head into the tournament in great shape, however, with a deep squad that contains great depth in the halves – they are blessed with so many good nines and tens – as well as some bang in form outside backs. Their pack is also on the way up and just needs to remain focussed and disciplined and they’ll be giving the best forwards packs in the world problems.
It must be said that the draw has not been kind to Le Bleu as they have two tricky away trips with games against Ireland at the Aviva and England at Twickenham laying in store.
2020 Finish: Third
2020 was a rather disappointing year for the Irish who floundered somewhat. Head coach, Andy Farrell has a lot of work to do if he is to improve on Ireland’s third-place finish in last year’s 6 Nations.
One of the problems Farrell is faced with is whether to continue to rely on the injury-prone Johnny Sexton. While Sexton is a great pivot, he can’t string a run of games together without picking up an injury.
To compound matters for Farrell, Sexton’s understudy, Joey Carbury, is still nursing a serious ankle injury and may not be available for the entity of the tournament.
On the plus side, Ireland have been given a rather soft draw with their games against France and England being played at home.
2020 Finish: Last
The Azzurri will be looking to end a horror run in the 6 Nations that has seen them go half a decade without a win. They fared extremely badly last year losing all of their 6 Nations games with their narrowest losing margin being by 17 points.
The Italians poor run of 2020 form carried over into the Autumn Nations Cup where they lost the three games that they played.
There is some good news for fans of Italian rugby with some talented young backs coming through the ranks including fly-half Paolo Garbasi who made his debut late last year.
In terms of Italy’s fixture, last season’s wooden spoonists have a decent enough draw which will feature three home games. They do have a daunting away fixture with England lying in wait at Twickenham.
2020 Finish: Fourth
The ‘Scots had a decent enough 6 Nations campaign last term finishing the 6 Nations in fourth with three wins from their five games, which included an impressive home victory over the French.
They endured a tougher time of it in the Autumn Nations Cup where they only managed one win from their three games with that victory being an unimpressive 17-28 win over 6 Nations whipping boys, Italy.
Gregor Townsend’s men are likely to be stronger in this year’s edition of the tournament as the Scottish head coach has kissed and made up with mercurial pivot Finn Russel who was exiled for most of last season. Having him back in the starting line-up will make the ‘Scots a much bigger threat on attack.
Russell will need to pull up trees if the ‘Scots are to pull off a major upset and win the tournament as his side have a very tough fixtures list that will see them take on England and France away from home.
2020 Finish: Fifth
I feel Wales are in for yet another tough year under the guidance of Wayne Pivac. The New Zealanders struggled during his first term at the Welsh helm with his side only recording a solitary victory in the 6 Nations, with the win coming against minnows Italy.
They fared somewhat better in the Autumn Nations Cup as they managed to wins from four games. It must be noted, however, that these victories came over Italy and their fellow European underdogs, Georgia.
Wales have a decent enough fixtures list with home games against England and Ireland. They do have a rather tough assignment at the Stade de France to contend with, though.
Verdict: England 5/4
I really wanted to back France here but they have some heavy away fixtures with ties against England at Twickenham and Ireland at the Aviva to contend with. I think this will open the door for England to claim yet another 6 Nations crown.