Europe’s most prestigious rugby tournament returned with packed stadiums and a series of dazzling performances.
The 2022 Men’s Six Nations was definitely one for the books. With teams finally able to play in front of packed stadiums again after Covid-19, we were able to experience a Six Nations reminiscent of pre-pandemic days. A dramatic tournament to say the least, this year has definitely proven to shake up international standings. Here’s how it all unfolded:
Following an impressive campaign in 2021, with three wins under their belts, plus a strong team filled with international stars, it’s no surprise that Scotland entered the tournament with high hopes. Opening with a face-off with the “Auld Enemy” on home soil seemed like the perfect way to kick off; securing the win and retaining the Calcutta Cup was an impressive start for the team. However, this early peak led to a painful decline, first with an unconvincing performance against Wales and then annihilation at the hands of the mighty Le Bleus. Despite a comfortable-looking score of 33-22, Scotland really had to fight against an exciting Italian side. With a final defeat in Dublin, marred by controversy, Scotland ended their tournament on a disappointing low, leaving Stuart Hogg’s position as Captain in dire straits. Despite this, there were incredible performances from Darcy Graham and newcomer Rory Darge that deserve to be celebrated.
The Italians have the unfortunate reputation as the “wooden spoon” team at the Six Nations, but this year has ushered in a new era for Italian rugby. Don’t let that bottom position on the table fool you: this has been an impressive tournament for Italy, putting in convincing performances against all the opposing teams. The appointment of Kieran Crowley has well and truly paid off, with foundations being laid for an exciting and young emerging team. A special mention must be made for the debut of Ange Capuozzo, who at just 22 years old stunned the crowds in his first two caps, setting up the incredible last minute try against Wales that secured the team’s only victory of the tournament, and the first in seven years of the Six Nations.
A third-place finish for England is not quite the result hoped for after a successful spell in the autumn internationals. Falling short against Scotland at Murrayfield was not the desired start to the English campaign, but a solid 33-0 victory against Italy set them back on track, followed by a comfortable win against Wales. Despite a fierce fight against Ireland, they fell short and the chances of the title depleted, and a last defeat against the French on super Saturday ended a lack-lustre campaign. The lack of several big names from the team due to injury did not help, but it proved to be an opportunity for some younger up-and-coming players to shine, notably the tournament’s leading points scorer Marcus Smith.
Last year’s champions had no reason to worry heading into this tournament, however, with some big names out of action due to injury and a slow transitional period the Welsh were tasked with an arduous campaign. Winning only against Scotland and finishing fifth on the board, this year has been a significant fall from grace for Wales. The standout moment for the team was their unprecedented home defeat at the hands of Italy on super Saturday, encapsulating the sense of uncertainty and lack of direction in the Welsh team, a performance described by Jonathon Davis as “absolutely dreadful”. However, their performance against the other teams should not be scoffed at, we should not risk judging them too harshly because of their previous wins.
Despite narrowly missing out on the Six Nations win, this campaign has proven Ireland are a force to be reckoned with. Convincing wins against England, Scotland and Italy showed the dominance of the team under head coach Andy Farrell. Unfortunately, their game against France almost guaranteed them a second-place finish, but the tournament has set them up as a team to watch going into the World Cup, especially with a clean sweep through the autumn international games.
The well-deserved winners achieved their first Six Nations title since 2010 after a stunning performance throughout. The team, lead by head coach Fabien Galthié and filled with star players, including Player of the Championship Antoine Dupont, stormed through the tournament undefeated and placed them in second place in the world rankings (bumping the All Blacks down to third). An ideal performance to lead them into a home hosted World Cup, as well as summer tests in Japan. All eyes are on Les Bleus.