• Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

Looking ahead to the Six Nations

ByAria Lindfield

Feb 2, 2024
Murrayfield Stadium

Ireland, having won the Six Nations with a grand slam in 2023 and being on a 13-match winning streak as well as being ranked number one, was certainly a favourite entering the World Cup. Not only did they top their group and increase their winning streak to 17 consecutive international matches (becoming the 5th international side to do so) but they also beat the tournament winners, South Africa, in what 

was a breathtakingly close match up. Unfortunately, they met their match in New Zealand with the three-time rugby world cup champions knocking out Ireland in the quarterfinals while on their run all the way to the finals, only to be halted by South Africa. It should, of course, be noted that Irish legend Johnny Sexton retired after the World Cup to thunderous applause and a rousing rendition of ‘Zombie’ by the Cranberries. His departure is certain to have an effect on the Irish side, but whether it will bolster them or force them to take a step back is yet to be discerned.

Of the six, Steve Brothwick’s England side managed to get the furthest in the World Cup, beating Argentina to finish third overall. The side had less than a year ahead of the World Cup to adapt to a new head coach, having removed Eddie Jones.

from the role at the end of 2022 due to a stint of poor performances. The restructuring of leadership had many predicting England would finish lower than they did. Due to a surprise move by Owen Farrell, a longtime England player and captain, to go and play for a French club, he is no longer eligible for selection for the England squad. As a Wales fan, I am of course delighted by this fact, as I am sure many others are; however, it is likely his absence from the English side will be noticeable both on and off the pitch.

France, likely the best contender, is missing Anthony Dupont, in my opinion the greatest player in the world, as he has decided to represent France in 7’s rugby this year at the Olympics in Paris. Due to a torn ACL, ‘Les Bleus’ is also missing Romain Ntumac, who many might remember from Six Nations past for some incredible plays.

including a fantastic no-look pass. Despite these absences, Fabien Galthié’s side still seeks to disrupt the Irish dominance we’ve been experiencing. The French side is probably the best mix of experience and youth going into the tournament, which could certainly be a winning formula.

Speaking of a young squad, the average age of the Welsh team going into the Six Nations is just 25. Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny, the latter being my childhood favourites, have both retired. This leaves just a few experienced names, such as George North. On top of this, the Wales squad is having to get used to yet another new captain. Jac Morgan, who performed exceptionally well in the role during the World Cup, underwent knee surgery over the new year and, as such, is not in a state to play. On top of all this, Louis Reese-Zammitt recently announced his stepping 

away from rugby in order to pursue American football through the international player pathway. This is a massive blow to the Welsh side, as LRZ’s speed was one of the few certainties for Wales fans.

Unfortunately, Scotland did not make it out of the group stage of the World Cup. Due to their rankings leading into it – as world cup groups are decided through international rank – they faced what many called the group of death. It definitely can be argued that in England’s position and easier run through the group stage,  Scotland could have also made it to that 3rd/4th deciding game. However, I think it’s fair to say that they would have been lucky to get that far. Their squad is going to be much the same as what we saw in the World Cup, and while it’s possible that they stagnate and end up falling behind the powerhouses of Ireland, France, and England, they could also be an entertaining Wildcard, which I think many of us would prefer. 

Italy, last year’s Six-Nation losers, are pegged by most to finish in the bottom two once again. Italy have historically been a bit of a battered punching bag in their previous Six-Nation appearances. But they have a new coach and some new young players who did incredibly well in the previous two years’ U21’s Six Nations. I’m hoping that they will join Scotland in being a bit of a wildcard, but they still have a long way to come before being at a level of competing with the likes of France and Ireland. 

The tournament kicks off on Friday, February 2nd, with what could be the deciding game, Ireland vs. France, with ‘Les Bleus’ playing at home in Marseille. The games being played in Scotland are being hosted here at Edinburgh at Murrayfield with Edinburgh on February 10 and February 24, with Scotland facing France and England respectively. 

Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh (2)” by daniel0685 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.