Tristan Rees gives us his take on an enthralling edition of rugby’s greatest tournament.
After a tournament with no fans in 2021, the excitement for their return is palpable. Held across February and March, for many the 6 Nations signals the arrival of spring and an end to the cold winter months. With the covid-19situation in Europe seemingly looking brighter, there are tentative glimpses of a return to normality. For the annual festival of rugby, this means the passionate fans, lots of colour and noise, exhilarating matches, heartache and ultimately triumph.
The autumn internationals gave fans a taste of what the atmosphere a sold-out stadium can produce once again and the quality of rugby also lived up to the hype. After a dire Lions series in South Africa, rugby fans were buoyed by the attacking nature and the excitement of the autumn games. Those matches also gave an indication of which teams are looking on song going into the 6 Nations. Judging by the November matches, this year’s tournament is one of the hardest to predict.
Looking at this year's competition, every team could realistically topple their opponents at any given stage, barring Italy, as you would expect. After supremely successful autumn campaigns, France and Ireland will probably start as the tournament favourites. In November, both were unbeaten and toppled the New Zealand All Blacks. 2021 champions Wales will be lower down the pecking order but cannot be discounted, while England seem to be building nicely. Having beaten all the others at some point in recent years, Scotland are no longer underdogs and 2022 could be their year. As has been the case for the past five or six years, Italy can only hope for a single win, but the chances of this happening are always very slim. With Italy continuing their poor run of form, this begs the question: do Italy actually deserve to be in the competition? Could this year be their final showing?
"Having beaten all the others at some point in recent years, Scotland are no longer underdogs and 2022 could be their year."
Rivalries aside, as Wales showed last year, momentum will be crucial. After scraping through wins against Ireland and Scotland, last year’s champions began to hit their stride against England and Italy before narrowly losing out on the Grand Slam against France in Paris. In fact, the French capital arguably witnessed one of their best performances to date. Therefore, the opening weekend’s matches are all the more important. While France are likely to sew up a comfortable victory against Italy, the other matches where Ireland take on Wales and Scotland tackle England are on a knife edge. Winning the first match could pave the way to overall victory and grand slam triumph.
Looking closer to home, Scotland can definitely be confident for the 2022 tournament. After their most successful championship in years, which included three victories and narrow losses to Wales and Ireland, they are looking like a top team for this year’s competition. With the onus, albeit only slightly, on the other sides, Scotland could be the tournament’s dark horses. Going into the 6 Nations under the radar will suit Scotland. And with the matches against England and France to be played at a sold-out Murrayfield, there may never be a better chance to claim the title. Scotland stalwarts, Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg are followed by fellow British and Irish Lions, Ali Price, Duhan Van der Merve, Hamish Watson, Zander Fagerson and Chris Harris, in a squad that has more depth and quality seen in the Scottish side since the turn of the century.
15 matches of potentially high quality rugby, with some of the fiercest rivalries in sport, played out in front of full-house stadiums, the Six Nations has its swagger back and this year’s mouth-watering edition could be one for the ages.
No related posts found!