As The Six Nations Kicks Off in Paris Later - We Ask Who Will Win It?
The Six Nations is back - with little under three hours before tonight's clash between France and Wales at the Stade de France marks the beginning of the 6-week competition - anticipation is high. We look forward to seeing Europe's finest pit their wits against each other once more. But who will win it?
The Form Guide
Their utter dominance last time out sets Ireland out as the team to beat this time around too. There impressive Grand Slam victory set the tone for a campaign that also saw them edge The All Blacks in a competent showing in November 2018. They are a team where the sum of their parts is more important than the individuals therein. Their defensive shape and attack have proven both organised and exciting making them the team that few are overlooking for the title.
Always there or thereabouts, Wales' counterattacking tendencies are enough to frighten the socks off of opponents. If they can get off to a good start, which has eluded them in years gone by - they could set the stage for a showpiece final game at the Principality against Ireland. As always Wales can't be discounted and if they can keep pace with Ireland ahead of the final game, their chances are as good as anyone's.
Scotland's resurgence in recent times has seen them emerge as dark horses in this one. With one of the most dynamic attacks in the tournament, they have an outside chance of winning their first tournament in the Six Nations era. Their latest crown came 20 years ago in the final Five Nations in 1999 but if full-back Stuart Hogg is to be believed that: "Scotland are on the path to something incredibly special" - they could end that drought in 2019.
It has been a decade since they last won the title and their dominance of the mid-2000s is starting to seem like a distant memory. However, Les Bleus are in a better place than they have been for some time. That said, they have been on the receiving end of some poor results recently, not least their humbling against Fiji in 2018.
But with scrum-half Morgan Parra able to control a game and the quality around him good enough - if they show enough bite to put up a fight in what could be a dramatic night in Paris tonight - which could pave the way for a decent finish for the French.
England were particularly disappointing in the last Six Nations as they finished fifth place but they have been back with a vengeance recently. With the Vunipola brothers having overcome injury and some decent results which saw them fall narrowly short to The All Blacks themselves in 2018 - they will be looking to exact revenge on Ireland and lift the trophy once more. They are of course underdogs but with Billy Vunipola available to give England the drive they need in the middle - they are touted to perform well this time.
Sadly for Italy, no one gives them much of a chance of escaping the Six Nations with anything but a wooden spoon. This is not so much about their own quality, as in the scheme of things they are a good side. But with the ability of the other sides on show in the Six Nations, Italy are predicted once again to find it hard to keep up. Former Scotland scrum-half turned rugby speaker, Rory Lawson said ahead of their showdown with Scotland, that they will have "too much quality" for Italy.
The Last Decade
The former Home Nations tournament became the Five Nations in 1940 and later the Six Nations at the turn of the Millenium, bringing Italy into the mix. Since then 18 tournaments have gone ahead with England leading the way on six wins in the modern era.
Next comes France, sitting on five Six Nations wins. But it is cutting close to a decade since they last won it in 2010. Wales have spread their wins out a little more, and have enjoyed four tournament wins and 2012 saw them gain an impressive third Grand Slam to equal France's record. Ireland may have been slow off the mark since the contest's inception, but they have made up for lost time this decade racking up four wins since 2009.