Many great captains have graced the hallowed grounds of the Six Nations in the past few years. Paul O’Connell and Rory Best led Ireland to Championship titles; Alun Wyn Jones has been a towering figure of leadership in the Welsh second row for years Sam Warburton led Wales to their last title in 2013. Dylan Hartley inspired England to a Grand Slam, and a subsequent Championship title in 2016 and 2017, Sergio Parisse spent a lot of years single-handedly dragging Italy through games. One man who does not get the plaudits of many of his compatriots, is the long-suffering France captain and hooker and Guilhem Guirado.
The Toulon hooker is probably one of the most underappreciated players in rugby, purely for having the misfortune to be playing on probably the worst, most disorganised French team in history. Guirado is France’s most consistent player and a lot of the time, the only one who seems to care. He is the leader French rugby desperately needs and yet this was not enough for Jacques Brunel.
It has been reported that after France’s disastrous loss to England, Jacques Brunel and FFR vice-president Serge Simon attempted to strip the captaincy from Guirado and hand it over to Jefferson Poirot. The players spoke up against it, and the plan didn’t gain any traction. Proof if any more were needed, that Jacques Brunel needs to be sacked. What is the logic of it? Guirado is the one cog in the French rugby machine that is operating at full capacity, so naturally, the best idea is to get rid of him? There is a French saying “a touché le fond, mais creuse encore” which translates to something to the effect “hit rock bottom, but keep digging”, and it perfectly befits French rugby currently.
The Montpellier bound man is potentially the best hooker in the world but gets lost because he’s part of a shambles of a French team. Malcolm Marx has such incredible ceilings but has inconsistencies, Dane Coles has had his injury trouble and needs to find form again, and Codie Taylor is very good but is also part of a winning All Blacks team. Guirado is a serious machine, with an endless engine who tackles, carries, clears out, and leads from the front. He is the most important player in this French team. Imagine the reaction if Joe Schmidt decided to drop Peter O’Mahony? Imagine Alun Wyn getting dropped by Warren Gatland? Guirado is probably the only international player you would feel sorry for. Imagine living out your boyhood dream, captaining your country in the Six Nations, but its with this French team. Then to make matters worse, having your moron of a coach rip that dream away from you for absolutely no good reason.
This whole debacle, and France’s recent performances show that Brunel has no sense of player or people management. Even the very fact that his wanting to change the captaincy being was shot down by the players shows that he has lost the dressing room. The players clearly don’t respect the coach. Brunel has all of the hallmarks of a weak man who got the job based on his connections. He has systematically and categorically failed to bring anything even remotely approaching a cohesive game plan for his team, let alone trying to innovate tactically, utterly flailing around, blaming everyone but himself, and making progressively more erratic decisions in an attempt to preserve or justify keeping his job.Embed from Getty Images
Jacques Brunel belongs with the likes of Eddie O’Sullivan, or Clive Woodward; his time is past. He is a rugby dinosaur who has no business anywhere near an international team, and needs to be sacked. A coach like Ben Ryan would be perfect for France. The team culture he cultivated with the Fiji Sevens squad was incredible, and did great things for with no resources.
France travel to Rome on Super Saturday, and given the French tendency not to get off the plane when they go abroad, Conor O’Shea will be targeting this for his first win in the Six Nations. It may be the best thing for French rugby if they lose this game. Lose this game, and maybe more cracks begin to show in Brunel’s grasp on the team.
Guilhem Guirado is a warrior and will continue to put his body on the line for his country, and at the end of every game the camera will pan to him, and he will look into the distance, wondering why he bothers at all.Embed from Getty Images
A recent Twitter debate summed it up well. The question was asked “Which player from another Six Nations side would you take for your country?” to which one user replied “Guilhem Guirado; just so he doesn’t have to suffer through playing for France anymore”Embed from Getty Images
Wales Dealt Six Nations Double-Blow
Wales’ Six Nations title defence has been dealt a massive blow already with two stars facing surgery to fix injuries picked up on international duty
Davies, a key member of the Welsh squad for the past number of seasons sustained a knee injury during Wales’ recent Rugby World Cup campaign, and Scarlets have announced that he will undergo surgery on the injury.
The recovery time for the for the centre is set to be six months, meaning he will miss the entire Six Nations tournament in what could be a critical blow as they look to defend their title. While it also means that he could potentially miss the entire club season for Scarlets.
As for Patchell, things aren’t as severe as Davies, but the fly-half is still set to miss the start of the Six Nations with a shoulder injury, which he too will have surgery on.
He is expected to miss between 12-16 weeks due to the injury in what is a cruel blow for a player that has suffered with injury previously, but had shown some brilliant form in recent times.
It is a far from ideal start to life at the helm for new head coach Wayne Pivac as he heads into his first tournament with the team.
As well as these injuries there are also further concerns regarding the likes of stars Liam Williams and Josh Navidi, who are both currently sidelined through injury, with the former looking likely to miss some part of the Six Nations.
Wales are looking to bounce-back during the tournament following a fourth-place finish at the World Cup, with all players hoping to impress Warren Gatland’s successor.
Munster Star in Six Nations Fitness Race
Munster have confirmed that one of their key men is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines which could put his Six Nations spot in doubt
Munster fly-half Joey Carbery is set for yet another spell in the sidelines according to head coach Johann van Graan due to injury.
Van Graan confirmed that Carbery is still suffering from an ankle injury which he sustained during Ireland’s Rugby World Cup warm-up game against Italy and is not able to put a return date for his comeback due to the nature of the injury.
“He is going to be out for some time. We got to make sure he gets his strength back and we get that ankle fully functional. From Joey’s point of view, obviously, he wants to play but his body is not right. Because of the type of injury he is definitely not going to be back in the next few weeks, I can tell you that,” he said on Carbery.
The out-half was selected ahead of Leinster’s Ross Byrne in Ireland’s World Cup squad despite carrying the injury. However, it was reiterated throughout the tournament that he had fully recovered, which now appears to be untrue.
His head coach also told reporters that the 23-year-old will not undergo surgery on the injury. When asked about the possibility of Carbery playing before Christmas van Graan admitted he is hopeful but he cannot be sure right now.
“I hope so. At this stage it is very difficult for the medical team to determine that. Because he has had it for quite a while the most important thing now is Joey’s health. He is a Munster player. He is under my watch now so we have got to look after him. He is very important for the national team, I believe, for the future of Irish rugby,” he added.
It is a massive blow for the Munster player who only moved from Leinster ahead of last season, and after starting brightly in the red jersey he picked up a hamstring injury that left him out for large portions of the season.
The fear for Carbery now however is that due to the nature of the injury and the inability to place a return date, he could face a race to be fit for Ireland’s Six Nations campaign at the start of February next year. Carbery will hopefully be back in action and back to match fitness by then as he will want the chance to impress new head coach Andy Farrell during his first tournament at the helm.
Japan Could Receive Six Nations Invitation
Following their incredible performances during this year’s Rugby World Cup it appears as though hosts Japan could be set for inclusion in one of the biggest international tournaments according to reports
The report by Martin Samuel claims that the World Cup host nation, who went all the way to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history, are to “receive a shock invitation” to European rugby’s elite international competition.
It was previously thought that a move to the Rugby Championship would make more sense and that it was on the cards as the Southern Hemisphere nations were impressed by the brand of rugby that Japan played.
However, it appears as though the tournament organisers are hesitant to bring them into the championship straight away, and are looking to include them within the next four or five years. Which would see them join come the end of the next World Cup cycle and see them miss out on some valuable development time ahead of the tournament.
The report is clear that although formal talks between the Brave Blossoms and the Six Nations are yet to take place that World Rugby have been made aware that leading figures within the European organisation are very interested in the prospect.
It would be a brilliant opportunity for the Japanese as they look to expand interest in the sport within the country and are in a prime position to do so with interest at an all time high following the success of the tournament in the Land of the Rising Sun.
They have earned respect especially within Europe following wins over Six Nations side’s Scotland and Ireland during the group stages of the World Cup with Japan now sitting ahead of the former in 8th position in the World Rugby rankings due to their performances.
Japan were among several tier two nations backing the making of a Nations Championship which would have allowed the likes of Fiji and themselves compete against the best nations around on an annual basis and with these developments it will raise further questions as to why the competition isn’t being developed.
We will have to wait and see how things progress over the coming weeks and months but it seems as though Japan are in with a bigger chance than ever before in being added to one of the biggest international tournaments on the planet.
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