Europe will once again be divided as the 2015 Six Nations Championship kicks off this weekend.
Some may question the merit of the title during a World Cup year. Does the tournament offer insight into each team’s set-up, strengths and weaknesses? Does the tournament give each of these teams the necessary physical preparation needed as they gear up to confront the world’s toughest opponents?
Regardless, this tournament is known to serve up fine football skills, young talent unearthed, drama, big hits, strong tradition and this year should be no different.
The tournament kicks off with a mouth watering clash where one of the tournament favourites, Wales, take on a wounded English side. Going into the match on Friday night fans may remember the 30-3 defeat suffered by England at the hands of their hosts the last time they met at the iconic Millenium stadium. Will the memory give the roses the motivation needed to exact revenge or will it be the Welsh who use the psychological advantage most effectively?
Added to English woes is their ever growing injury list. Key players missing include Davey Wilson upfront, Tom Wood and former Sharks centre Brad Barrit. That said, young Jonathan Joseph who plies his trade at Bath will be one player to watch.
This match should set the stage for what will be another thrilling display of European rugby.
The second match up sees the other tournament favourites, Ireland, travel to Italy.
The defending champions will hope to undo the memory of their last meeting at Stadio Olimpico where they lost to Italy who, traditionally, are considered the whipping boys of the competition. The Azzuri boast a collective 660 caps in their side and Sergio Parisse will no doubt lead his chargers based on their wealth of experience and the success of their last meeting with the Irish at their home base.
On the Irish side, a player to look out for is Ian Keatly who replaces Jonathan Sexton at 10. A great opportunity presents itself to the young flyhalf to prove his form, and nerves, especially in this pivotal role this close to the World Cup.
The final match sees the unpredictable sides France and Scotland do battle. Watch out for new French wing, Teddy Thomas who, on debut scored a hat-trick of tries against a very physical Fijian side. While the Scots are not renowned for bold defence this match may be just what Thomas needs to solidify his place and value in the side.
No doubt we’re in for a feast this weekend and this year. We want to hear from you, Ireland and Wales are favourites to lift the trophy this year. What are your thoughts? Do you think it’s a two horse race once again or are we in for a few surprises?