Six Nations 2018: six fans preview the tournament
England are not being spoken about as clear favourites, which favours us. Given our injury list, I’m not expecting a macabre dismantling of Italy to be used as a benchmark for a barnstorming . Eddie Jones has a mix of brilliant and experienced players, as well as exciting, inexperienced ones. The fixture list is advantageous too with Italy first up and then a slightly depleted Wales at Twickenham.
Owen Farrell and George Ford will both be huge. They have the tactical ability and mental fortitude to shepherd England through any situation. There are other superstars in white but we need those two pulling the strings. I’d like to see Anthony Watson at 15. If he can display the game-breaking skills that have become a must-have attribute of modern full-backs, England will keep opposition in those outside channels wide-eyed all match. I am particularly excited to see some of the uncapped players. Zach Mercer surely has to feature and Tom Dunn could make a cameo. Jon Chapman
After a bad trip to South Africa last summer – when France lost all three games by quite a margin – we were thoroughly disappointing in the autumn internationals. A 18-38 defeat to New Zealand was fair enough given our form, but losing at home to South Africa hurt and then we topped it off with a terrible draw at home against Japan a week later.
Questions were asked and the federation took drastic measures, sacking head coach Guy Novès. In my eyes, it was the right thing to do. He didn’t click with the players and his selections were not good enough. New coach Jacques Brunel seems better at picking the best players available rather than having favourites. He wasn’t afraid of dropping Louis Picamoles, who has been our No8 for the last five years.
It’s hard to know what to expect for the Six Nations. Brunel has only been in charge for a short period of time and still needs to install his philosophy on a team that lacks experience. Only five players have 20 or more caps. On the other hand, fresh blood has been added to the team with players such as fly-half Matthieu Jalibert, scrum half Antoine Dupont and hooker Camille Chat. The potential is there. Nicolas Rooryck
I’m hopeful. This is possibly the strongest squad we’ve had in years, with loads of genuine strength in depth. There are injury concerns surrounding Seán O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip, but for once there is ample cover. Garry Ringrose’s absence will be felt though; he can create something from nothing. But it gives both Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki a chance to gel into a potentially world-class centre partnership. Ireland don’t travel that well traditionally and, apart from Italy and France, haven’t beaten many teams away. France in Paris is always a test, no matter how poor you think they are. England at Twickenham is one to relish. St Patrick’s Day in Twickenham will be one hell of a battle – and that’s just to get to the bar!
Jordan Larmour is the player everyone is talking about and for good reason. I don’t think he’ll get game time until we play Italy, unless injuries are a factor. I hope he is given his chance – he’s ready. Keith Earls has been amazing for Munster and I’d love to see him continue his great form for Ireland. I’d love to predict a Grand Slam but think, with England away, a resurgent Scotland and with Wales an unknown quantity, we might just sneak the championship. The bonus point system will be a much bigger factor this year too. Let’s see if we can beat France first. Kevin Gannon
I’m not overly confident, but the Italian sides have performed a lot better in the Pro 14 this season and have been a lot more competitive. Benetton in Europe lost all their games in Europe, but should have beaten Toulon at home and away. Instead they managed to lose both in the last minute. Carlo Canna has had a decent season for Zebre and Mattia Bellini is an impressive winger. Giovanni Licata and Renato Giammarioli are two young back row forwards with big future’s ahead of them. Francis Barbuti
It will be a case of head versus heart again with Scotland. But there’s real substance to back up that hope. Last year we toppled Ireland, Wales and Australia twice, including a win away in Sydney with a scratch side and an impressive eight-try thumping at Murrayfield in November – not to mention being a whisker away from drawing – or beating – the All Blacks.
The fixture list has been relatively kind to Scotland considering they only have two home games. Beating Wales and France in our first two games would help us gather some serious momentum. The rest periods after that could be key in the games against England and Ireland. Scotland have found games against these two opponents very physical and costly in recent years. Scotland could be in with a shout at the Championship when they go to Rome in the final weekend.
Our front row is ravaged by injuries. WP Nel, Zander Fagerson and Fraser Brown are all out and so are a host of their back-ups. Our depth will be truly tested. Matching the physicality of larger packs in the competition will be key for Scotland, with massive shifts from Hamish Watson, Stuart McInally and Jonny Gray required. The leadership and breakdown nous of Jon Barclay will be imperative. And will veteran scrum half Greig Laidlaw start or will Gregor Townsend opt for the livewire Ali Price? If Scotland can find parity in the scrum and maintain a physical hard edge, then the array of attacking talent in their backline will have a chance to shine. I can’t wait. Jordan Christie
It will be a rough year for Wales. We’re not without as many players through injury as other teams, but the quality of those missing is alarming; Sam Warburton, Taulupe Faletau, Lloyd Williams and Jonathan Davies were all standouts on the Lions tour. I wouldn’t be hopeful even if they were all fit.
Wales have been poor since the last World Cup and the only standout performances have been where we’ve physically overwhelmed our opponents. That’s not a recipe for winning consistently, especially away from home. We may sneak past Scotland at home because they’ve run out of front row forwards, but England and Ireland away will most likely end in bad defeats. Italy and France are both pretty weak teams so we expect to beat them.
Seb Davies looks like he could be the next Alun Wyn Jones, so I hope he is given a chance, but Rhys Patchell is the player who excites me most. I’d like to see him at 10 against Scotland with Dan Biggar injured, but 15 would be the better fit when Biggar returns. Biggar has many excellent attributes, but he doesn’t have that creative spark. Having another playmaker in the backline to help him will improve Wales’ attacking play immeasurably. Bryn Rogers