WE SEEM to say it every year but I think the Six Nations is genuinely very open this time. There are a number of teams who could be top of the pile come the end – England, Ireland, Wales – while we’ve seen Scotland’s type of rugby improve already under Vern Cotter and Italy get better every year, so it’s going to be a very exciting and fraught championship.
England are more than capable of winning it, but whether that elusive Grand Slam will be done by anyone I’m not too sure. There are too many games that are tough to call. England play in Wales and in Ireland but then you’ve got three games at home, so you’d hope to win the three at home and one of the away games, and then probably be there or thereabouts regarding the championship.
I think tonight is going to be an edgy game and I don’t expect flowing rugby. First game up is always a bit nervous. I think both sides want to get off to a winning start so would gladly take a 9-8 victory just to get that. Even though I’m sure both would like to play very attractive rugby, it will be, I believe, a game played by two very pragmatic sides that want to go out and win. I wouldn’t say this is all about entertainment; it’s going to be a humdinger but it’ll be a hard, fast, brutal game and I think there will only be a couple of points in it.
If you win, of course you’re going to say you’ve got a bit of jinx over the opposition. But if you lose, is it really going to play a part in preparations for the World Cup? Not really. It doesn’t matter about getting one over on the other team – it’s Wales v England; you want to beat the old enemy. They’ll both want to win it because it’s the Six Nations Championship.
The sad thing about England’s injuries is that you wanted to see some potential World Cup combinations put together in these games and we won’t be able to see that now. But when you get injuries it gives others opportunities and you’ve got take the positives out of it: that you’ll be seeing players that perhaps wouldn’t have been involved if everyone was fit. Every international team has to deal with injury issues and England aren’t any different.
The Six Nations always brings passion and excitement. It’s very much the jewel in our crown and everyone is jealous of it. The pride and the passion and the history that goes with it is the envy of the rugby world.