This year’s Six Nations is arguably both the most predictable and the least predictable in a long time – but I do think there is a good chance of Wales finishing rock bottom.
I am in agreement with most that it will be between Ireland and France for the title, but beyond that it is such an unknown.
For the others, one game here or there could be the difference between finishing third and finishing last.
Make or break for Wales
Wales’s first game against Ireland in Cardiff has a make or break feel for returning head coach Warren Gatland.
If they lose it I think there’s a real chance of them finishing bottom of the Six Nations table come the end of March.
A loss at home in the opening round followed by Scotland away is a difficult task – they’ll either be facing a bunch of Scots who are on a high after beating England or a bunch of Scots who will want a reaction from losing to England. It is almost a lose-lose for the Welsh.
So after the opening two rounds there’s a realistic prospect of Wales being two from two or none from two.
While I do think they’ll beat England at home, you never know in the Championship and consecutive away days in Paris and Rome is no easy feat.
It’s all set up to prove me wrong but I just don’t see Wales doing well, let alone challenging. They get the Wooden Spoon in my predicted table.Ollie Phillips
I am worried that the first weekend will burst the Gatland bubble. Wales managed to scrape their way to the title two years ago but it’s not the same now and I don’t think there’s enough quality to do the job across five matches.
Their side doesn’t look too threatening at the moment, but that’s often when you see teams thrive.
The Welsh union is on the ropes with the players and the regions, their performances last year – especially the losses to Georgia and Italy – were awful and they’re desperately trying to deal with a number of grenades being thrown off the field. The whole system in Wales looks like a mess at the moment.
Phoenix of bust?
This Six Nations campaign is either going to be one where the phoenix rises from the ashes and shows some resolve, or one where the bubble bursts just months out from a World Cup.
England’s coaching situation is altogether different. Twickenham bosses chose someone related to the international game in Steve Borthwick but detached enough to bring in new ideas – Gatland isn’t that. England have brought in a man from the club game who has thrived, Wales have brought in Gatland from a struggling Chiefs side – they didn’t win in his opening season there. England have brought in a real freshness in ideas with the inclusion of Kevin Sinfield; I am not too sure Wales have developed that variety just yet.
It’s all set up to prove me wrong but I just don’t see Wales doing well, let alone challenging. They get the Wooden Spoon in my predicted table.
Around the grounds
Elsewhere I back Ireland to win the Championship. Playing both France and England at home this year is huge for Andy Farrell’s men – so long as they can keep their players fit.
Defending champions and Grand Slam holders France should come in a close second – losing the Championship on points difference potentially.
Les Bleus have a number of injuries at the moment and almost need to lose a match – like Ireland did in New Zealand last year – to retain their killer instinct and focus on the World Cup in a few months’ time.
Of the other four teams it really is a toss up, but I think England and Scotland will share third and fourth while Italy beat Wales to fifth.
But the Six Nations does this thing to rugby players; it focuses them into the best forms of themselves. They’re on the edge, desperate to make the winning difference, playing with so much pride and determination – there’s few things like it in sport outside of World Cups.
It’s why we saw Italy shine in Cardiff last year, Ireland dominate in Dublin and France wipe the floor – because it’s just so scintillating and unpredictable. I cannot wait until Saturday and the Championship’s return.