This year’s Six Nations Championship appears as if it will be one of the most highly contested tournaments in years. The gap in quality between the stronger sides and weaker sides has narrowed significantly in recent years. This was evident last year with Ireland’s defeat of Wales (who went on to win the Championship) followed by losses to Scotland and Italy. Ireland have shown some improvement since then and showed what they are capable of with an outstanding display in their narrow defeat to New Zealand in the Autumn Internationals. The encouraging form of the provinces with Ulster, Munster and Leinster all qualifying for the quarter finals of the Heineken Cup can also point to the fact that Ireland are moving in the right direction under the new management of Joe Schmidt. The question is whether club form can be replicated on the international stage.
The recent squad announcement shows a good blend of youth and experience with some exiting attacking talent available for selection. We just hope that injuries don’t prove detrimental to our chances this year with the likes of Sean O’Brien and Keith Earls now ruled out and that Rory Best and Tommy Bowe will be fit to line up at some stage during the tournament.
The two favourites for this year’s Six Nations appear to be England and Wales. The English had a positive November series, defeating Australia and Argentina before narrowly losing to the record-breaking New Zealanders. With an ever-improving young pack, along with a potent back line led by Owen Farrell and Danny Care at half back, this England side seems destined to secure silverware. The question is: will it be this season?
The trump card that the Welsh hold over their English counterparts is experience. The majority of the current squad have won at least one Grand Slam, if not a couple. Players such as Leigh Halfpenney, George North, Sam Warburton and Dan Lydiate all played a vital part in a Wales-dominated Lions team that won a first series in sixteen years. Despite losses in the autumn series this Welsh side appear to have the most settled squad in the championship, and a third title in a row appears likely.
It is unlikely that we will see France finish at the bottom of the table as they embarrassingly did last season. With the likes of Wesley Fofana, Morgan Parra and Maxime Medard they have the undoubted talent to beat any team on any given day. We think their consistency will be their down fall though and the championship may prove beyond them this year.
This Six Nations will be a special tournament as Brian O’Driscoll, arguably its greatest player, bows out of the International stage. The Irish team will be determined to give the country’s record try-scorer a fitting send-off.
Would you like to say you were there when Brian O’Driscoll played his last match for Ireland?
If you would like to witness Brian O’Driscoll’s skill in an Irish jersey in France this March before he bows out of the International stage get in touch with Kevin, our Sports Travel Expert on 01 804 7102. You never know, you could be there to see Ireland take home the 6 Nations Championship Trophy!