This weekend sees the start of February and with it the 6 Nations returns with the opening weekend sure to set the tone for what awaits.
Here’s a quick form guide as to how each team performed over the past 12 months and who needs a good tournament to start off their Rugby World Cup year.
Wales are the team on the up with wins over South Africa and two over Argentina last summer coupled with a clean sweep in the November internationals giving them a seven-game winning streak since last years tournament.
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) January 28, 2019
On the other hand, France had a lacklustre 2018, with only two wins in the 6 Nations, followed up by a 3-0 series lose to New Zealand in the summer. November was no different as they won one of three matches including a first loss to Fiji.
Both teams will be looking to kick start their year off with a win with the World Cup only around the corner.
The hosts head into the fixture after a missed year finishing last years tournament in third, during the summer they bet Canada and Argentina but fell to defeat to the USA. Their year ended with two wins from four in the November series.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) January 28, 2019
Italy are a team in desperate need of some form before the world cup and here would be a good place to start as they only narrowly lost out 29-27 in the teams encounter last year.
Conor O’Shea’s men come in to the tournament on the back of two wins in eleven last year while finishing in last place with a single point from the competition last year.
A win for either side would be a welcome opening to the new international rugby year.
Ireland begin the tournament as favourites after what was arguably the best year in their history.
They took the 6 Nations and Grand Slam crown home last year with a 24-15 win over England. They then headed out to Australia in the summer and claiming a 2-1 series win on southern hemisphere soil for the first time since 1979.
The year concluded with four wins from four in November, including a 16-9 win over New Zealand.
England had mixed fortunes last year, ending their 6 Nations campaign with three defeats on the bounce and in fifth place in the table. Eddie Jones’ men then lost 2-1 in their summer tour of South Africa.
They ended on an almost perfect high, winning three of their four November series games and coming so close to a clean sweep only losing out 15-16 to New Zealand.
These are the two teams that will have the most pressure on their shoulders coming into the tournament and a win would be a perfect way to ease that.
Besides the last 12 months, and in terms of 6 Nations titles, Ireland and England have shared the last five. With Ireland coming out on top in 2014, 2015, and 2018, while England completed the double between 2016 and 2017.
From looking at all of this it is hard to look past Ireland or Wales due to form, but we all know how quickly things can change in sport.
Heading into this year’s tournament form will only be one factor, now we will have to wait and see if that form continues as we expect.
We can't wait to see who'll be playing in Round One of the 2019 #GuinnessSixNations😄
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) January 28, 2019
Ireland Add Final Piece to Backroom Puzzle
Ireland have confirmed their final addition to Andy Farrell’s coaching staff
Catt is currently coaching the Italian national side however; he will leave his post following the conclusion of the World Cup and take up the role of Ireland’s attack coach until 2023.
He is the last of the coaches to be named as a part of Andy Farrell’s backroom staff, with Farrell set to take over from Joe Schmidt once the tournament in Japan is completed.
Catt is delighted to be moving on to work with the Irish side but insists that he is solely focused on his current task with Italy.
“I am looking forward to the Rugby World Cup in Japan and seeing the group of players we have here in Italy fulfil their potential and achieve the objectives we have set for ourselves. Obviously, it is an honour to be given this future opportunity with Ireland, but I will focus on that challenge only after I have given my all for Italy and this group of players,” he said.
Farrell and Catt previously worked together while part of England’s coaching set-up for the 2015 Rugby World Cup and has plenty of experience which is appealing to IRFU performance director David Nucifora.
“Mike brings a wealth of experience to the coaching group and has been operating at the highest level of the international game for some time. He was a smart and innovative player, and he brings those attributes and much more besides in his approach to coaching and player development. We feel that we have secured a talented practitioner who will add significant value to the group and to the wider Irish system,” he said.
Along with Catt, Farrell has added John Fogarty as the side’s new scrum coach, while Simon Easterby and Richie Murphy will continue on as forwards specialist and kicking and skills coaches respectively.
Farrell will be hoping that he will take over the reigns following a successful World Cup campaign and will want to hit the ground running having put together a top-quality backroom set-up.
World Rugby Gives Deadline for Nations Championship
World Rugby have given the 10 unions from the Six Nations and Rugby Championship a final deadline to decide on the Nations Championship
For their plans to be progressed World Rugby needs a unanimous decision from the 10 unions.
If that is to happen, they plan to launch their new format in 2022, with winners of the Six Nations and an expanded six-team Rugby Championship going head to head.
The final proposals of the Nations Championship will have to be passed by a vote of the full World Rugby council, however none of this will go ahead unless there is backing from the 10 nations.
Proposals have included creating two-tier tournaments for the Six Nations and Rugby Championship which would include the possibility of relegation or promotion.
A format which Six Nations unions appear to dislike.
As well as this there is the issue of the Pacific Islands, who believe that the creation of such tournaments would mean that they would be less likely to face the top nations in November and therefore be unable to develop as they currently are.
Whatever is to happen will become clearer in the next couple of days and it could be the start of a new era for international rugby.
Welsh Warrior to Play Trade Outside Wales Post-World Cup?
One of Wales’ finest players may make a move away from the country after the World Cup
The Welsh captain has spent his entire career with the Ospreys, but fans expect and are even encouraging the lock to seek a move elsewhere after Shane Williams said his future needed to be sorted.
Jones has previously turned down the chance to move abroad for a better contract, instead remaining in Wales and being a loyal servant to both his country and club.
Having made 125 caps for Wales, their Grand Slam winning captain would be eligible to continue playing for the country if he did move as he more than doubles the required 60-caps for overseas-based players.
Fans seem to think that Jones deserves to earn more overseas in the twilight of his career and set himself up for a more stable future come the end of his glittering career.
Another possibility for the 33-year-old could be a big-money move to Japan. Either way most of the clubs in Europe or Japan can offer Jones a significant salary rise which he could be tempted by.
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