With the thrills and spills of Japan’s Rugby World Cup fading into memories, global showpiece runners-up England will be out with vengeance to overturn defending champions Wales and return to the top of the European hierarchy.
Since England’s crumbling at the feet of South Africa back in the summer, much has happened in the world of rugby, with Premiership and European champions Saracens condemned to relegation due to salary cap breaches, while transfers aplenty are unfolding across the continent.
The latest storm in rugby with the outfall of Saracens will undoubtedly impact the England squad, with so many of the Barnet-based players in the eye of the storm, but coach Eddie Jones remains stoic in his ambition, to thwart Wales and regain the Six Nations crown.
Wales, themselves, have had a relatively quiet period since fourth place finish at the Rugby World Cup and will be joint favourites alongside England to retain their title – and spirits are high in Wales with a number of internationals returning to compete in regional rugby once again.
Japan quarter-finalists Ireland, who buckled to the almighty All Blacks, will be there or thereabouts as always and the scheduling of the Six Nations often tends to favour the Emerald Isle, with just about enough recovery time to avoid losing key players to injury, but with a change at the helm – Andy Farrell the new head coach and Jonathan Sexton now leading the side – much will be expected.
France, who were narrowly edged out at the World Cup by Wales in the last eight, finished fourth in last year’s continental championship and yet again appear unpredictable in form – on their day Les Bleus could topple any of the giants, but often fall short of building any momentum across the course of a competition.
Looking north of the border to Scotland, like their counterparts England, there is much disarray in the camp, with fly-half Finn Russell pulled before the opening game for breaching team protocol, before eschewing the opportunity to stay in camp and returning to Paris with his Racing 92 teammates, leaving Gregor Townsend with a significant lack of game leadership at his disposal.
Conor O’Shea’s Italian job had the doors blown off and Franco Smith is now in the driving seat, but the national setup remains very much a work in progress, it is a fair to say, with five defeats from five in last year’s Six Nations and only managing to beat minnows Canada and Namibia at the World Cup, but the former Harlequins head coach will be ever the optimist and expect much from his squad.
So where does the Guinness Six Nations crown look set to touch down come March 14?
It’s set to be another year of the three-horse race as England, Ireland and Wales vie for the coveted title of European champions, but who will prevail?
With such fierce competition between the top table trio, ruling out a Grand Slam seems like an obvious move and with such depth in squad strength Jones’ England should, and likely will, come out top of the pile.
Ben’s Final Standings Prediction:
We also found out the thoughts of the Bookmakers
England are the odds on favourites, at 4-6 with bookmaker Coral, to win the Six Nations this year as they announced their squad for the tournament this morning.
Ireland are the 4-1 second favourites, with Wales 6-1 and France 7-1.
Scotland can be backed at 25-1 and Italy are the 500-1 outsiders.
England are 11-8 to win the Grand Slam by winning all five of their matches. They are 7-1 to go the whole of 2020 unbeaten. Wales are 14-1 for back to back Grand Slams.
“Eddie Jones has named a much changed squad for the first Six Nations after the World Cup as England look to build towards 2023. The future looks very bright though and we make them odds on to win the tournament this spring and mark the new era with a lightening start,” said Coral’s Harry Aitkenhead.
“It’s 11-8 for them to win the Grand Slam, comfortably the most likely candidates for the unbeaten tournament with Ireland back at 9-1 and Wales 14-1 to repeat their 2019 success,” added Aitkenhead.