Rugby

2019 Six Nations Preview – Can Ireland make history?

The 2019 Six Nations Championships promise to be one of the most exciting and competitive renewals of recent years. Always a highlight on the sporting calendar, defending Champions Ireland are looking to make history by being the first team in Six Nations history to win back-to-back Grand Slams – so rightly start as favourites.

Here we look at the six competing Nations and how we like their chances of claiming this years title.

IRELAND

Pre tournament favourites and defending Grand Slam champions, the Irish go into this years tournament on the back of a fantastic winter series, including a victory over the mighty All Blacks. A hugely talented and deep squad, the Irish will be roared on by a partisan crowd at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin – but its worth noting that they have won more games away from the Emerald Isle than they have at home. Their last game on the 2019 schedule away at Wales catches the eye…they could well go there needing a win to make history.

Sportsweek Prediction: Champions

ENGLAND

After being crowned Champions in 2017, the 2018 campaign was a nigh on disaster for the English…a fifth place finish being their worst Six Nations placing of recent times. But they enter this years Championship with renewed optimism and focus, with outspoken coach Eddie Jones doing his usual battle with the press to alleviate the spotlight and pressure on his players. England’s opening game against Ireland could well set the tone for their assault this year….a win could spell glory….defeat could spell another disappointing return.

Sportsweek Prediction: Third

WALES

Another nation that has confidence sky high on the back of a strong winter showing, the Welsh could well be this years not-so-surprise package and the main challengers to the Irish. Injuries could be a factor here though, especially with talisman Leigh Halfpenny likely to miss the whole Six Nations with an ongoing concussion problem. But they have a strong, deep squad and a favourable schedule…although three away games and just the two at the Millennium Stadium, they will be thankful those two home games are against the English (Round 3) and last up the Irish, in what could well be a title decider.

Sportsweek Prediction: Second

FRANCE

Predicting how the French will perform this year is much like predicting what colour Smartie will fall from the tube first. They could win the Grand Slam….or the Wooden Spoon. What is likely though is that they will be very exciting to watch and their games very likely to be full of points. They could be on the end of a drubbing or two though, especially with games in England and Ireland to contend, but expect a few fabulous French flair tries along the way.

Sportsweek Prediction: Fifth

ITALY

Its hard to see anything other than another 6th place finish for the Italians, who remain competitive but still a class short of their Six Nations rivals. With only one win since 2014 to point to in the Six Nations, the Italians will be more hopeful than expectant of adding to this tally. But, there is no doubt they are improving again under new Head Coach Conor O’Shea, and they could just give one or two teams a run for their money – and points. Still a reach to suggest they can beat anyone this year though.

Sportsweek Prediction: Sixth

SCOTLAND

The Scots will be as tenacious and competitive as ever, but you have to believe that any chance of winning the tournament are hamstrung by injuries – pun fully intended. Up to 13 potential starters could be missing for some or all of this years Championships which surely is enough to dampen even the most ardent of Scotland fans passion and belief. Still, an opening win is on the cards against Italy, with their final game being a tasty clash against England at what will be a rocking Twickenham. Might not be much joy in between however.

Sportsweek Prediction: Fourth

2019 SIX NATIONS FIXTURES

Round 1 (1st & 2nd February)

France v Wales, Scotland v Italy, Ireland v England

Round 2 (9th & 10th February)

Scotland v Ireland, Italy v Wales, England v France

Round 3 (23rd & 24th February)

France v Scotland, Wales v England, Italy v Ireland

Round 4 (9th & 10th March)

Scotland v Wales, England v Italy, Ireland v France

Round 5 (16th March)

Italy v France, Wales v Ireland, England v Scotland