The escape-from-the-gloom-of-winter sportsfest starts tomorrow: the Six Nations rugby. As ever, hope and anticipation runs high before it starts. I offer my predictions below, but frankly, I haven’t got a clue, except to say that Italy and Scotland will battle it out for fifth and sixth.
But here goes:
Wishful thinking? Maybe. But I think sooner or later England are going to show their true colours and rip it up. This year is possibly too soon as there are still so many places in the team up for grabs, especially in the backs. But there is a conveyor belt of talent which none of the other countries except France can hope for, simply because of rugby playing population size. And there are four Quins in the team for the first game, against France. Robshaw (captain), Care, Marler and Brown. Go for it boys!
Wales have won it for the last two years and have shown you can build a superb national team while having quite weak clubs – or provinces. None have made it into the quarter finals of the Heineken Cup this year. Wales provided the bulk of the victorious Lions in Australia last year. They are the bookies’ favourites, at around 2 to 1. (England and France are next at around 3 to 1). I just wonder though. There’s a lot of strife in Welsh rugby at the moment. Players moving to France, in particular. Will it affect the team?
Every year I think Ireland will translate their power at Heineken level to national performance. Recently they haven’t. But that almost-win against the All Blacks in the Autumn showed what they were capable of. Brian O’Driscoll’s last go. Time to do it?
France, as ever, are the unpredictables. There’s a growing theory that they are suffering from the same syndrome as England in football. Namely that they have recruited so many great foreign players to their domestic league that their own youngsters aren’t breaking through in sufficient numbers. Captain Dusautoir is injured. A major blow. Probably means they’ll win it this year!
Scotland and Italy are doomed to occupy the last two places unless something freakish happens. Small pools of players. Italy getting better each year. Scotland struggling to recapture former glory. But shock results will be sprung somewhere along the line.
So yeah, I’ll put my faith in England, knowing that I’ll probably be wrong. But along the way we’ll see some great games and forget for a while that the southern hemisphere sides are so much better.
Fill your boots!