The RBS Six Nations returns this spring, and with most teams on good form and new rules in place there’s a lot to consider. Culture Trip picks out the major talking points.
It will be impossible for any player to be praised without “He’s got to be up for Lions consideration, hasn’t he?” lobbed onto the end of it. Get ready for every website and news network in Europe picking their potential squad, their potential XV and much more. Lions’ head coach Warren Gatland very publicly stated how much of a factor the last rounds of the Six Nations played in assembling his squad in 2013. Expect a hefty dose of Eddie Jones’ unbeaten England squad, but the number of Scots on the plane could reach double figures given Glasgow in the Champions Cup. Each game could see selection eliminators for certain positions and as a result there’s still a huge amount for Gatland to consider.
The big talking point in the game at the moment. The rules haven’t changed as such, more the respective punishment for the offences. It will undoubtedly cause debate and there will be incidents where fans will feel hard done by when yellow cards are shown, but it will be interesting to see how defences adapt to the law changes. Key to the changes will be how the referees interpret them, there is a danger of the rules making the game ‘unreffable’ if there is a lack of clarity. Fingers crossed there’s enough consistency for the players to know where they stand, and more importantly, where they can hit.
Grand Slam Decider?
While the French have improved, and the Scots look as good as they’ve done for 20 years, it’s Joe Schmidt’s Ireland side that pose the biggest threat to England’s crown. Their autumn was excellent, with the obvious highlight being their win over the All Blacks in Chicago, and the intensity they played with. You could put an argument forward for six Irish back rowers to make the Lions tour, with CJ Stander – whose recent performances for Munster have been astonishing – the pick of the bunch. Over the last couple of years the loss of the likes of Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell has barely been noticed, such is the form of those who have filled their boots. Throw in the most exciting prop in Europe (Tadhg Furlong) and it’s a potent mix. All eyes will be on Dublin when the English are in town for the final game of the competition.
The deciding Test match of 2013 featured 10 Welshmen in the starting XV and it proved to be hugely successful, safe to say however, that won’t be happening again. Wales have real problems. A lack of long term planning has meant that the team’s tactics have become tired and stale. There is a severe lack of imagination when on the field and key players’ form has fallen off a cliff. New captain Alun Wyn Jones (audition for skippering the Lions?) is by far their best player but even he can only carry them so far.
So, bear with us. The competition will trial a bonus points system, much like domestic leagues and the Rugby Championship. There are now four match points for a win. If a team scores four tries (whether you win or lose) they are awarded an extra match point. A losing team will receive a match point if it loses by less than seven points. A draw is worth two match points and there are a further three match points awarded to a team if it wins a Grand Slam. The aim is to increase the number of tries but in reality it shouldn’t make too much difference. Had the system been in place last year, the outcome would have been the same. That said, anything to encourage greater attacking intent should be applauded.
French rugby – at national level, at least – has been dour for a long time. They’ve not won the title since 2010, even picking up a wooden spoon in 2013. French sides used to be absolute grit up front and pure flair at the back. Recently, they’ve picked forwards that want to keep ball in hand and big, bruising backs with zero imagination (Wesley Forfana aside). And yet, 2017 could see the green shoots of a Gallic revival. Guy Novès’ side can build their pack around Yoann Maestri, have Maxime Machenaud orchestrating things behind the scrum and even Mathieu Bastareaud has shed enough pounds to earn a recall. Ireland and England should still prove too strong when the French travel to them, but this side are fully capable of causing an upset.
With date and time (GMT)
04/02/2017 14:25 SCOTLAND V IRELAND
04/02/2017 16:50 ENGLAND V FRANCE
05/02/2017 14:00 ITALY V WALES
11/02/2017 14:25 ITALY V IRELAND
11/02/2017 16:50 WALES V ENGLAND
12/02/2017 15:00 FRANCE V SCOTLAND
25/02/2017 14:25 SCOTLAND V WALES
25/02/2017 16:50 IRELAND V FRANCE
26/02/2017 15:00 ENGLAND V ITALY
10/03/2017 20:00 WALES V IRELAND
11/03/2017 13:30 ITALY V FRANCE
11/03/2017 16:00 ENGLAND V SCOTLAND
18/03/2017 12:30 SCOTLAND V ITALY
18/03/2017 14:45 FRANCE V WALES
18/03/2017 17:00 IRELAND V ENGLAND