Last Years tournament
The 2022 Six Nation was an exciting campaign to watch and it produced some historic results. France made history, winning their first title and Grand Slam since 2010, defeating England in the final game of the tournament. While that result clinched the title it was not the teams biggest results.
Before the tournament started, the game between France and Ireland was seen as the decider as those two teams were a step above the rest. This turned out to be true as these two finished in the top two spots and the title was decided by the game between the pair.
It was an incredible fixture in the Stade de France and a very close one, with Ireland just a point behind after 50 minutes. A Cyril Baille try in the 54th minute turned out to be crucial as Frances elite defence meant that Ireland only scored three points in the final 30 minutes.
The other four teams in the tournament all took wins off of each other, with England finishing in third thanks to points difference. England lost in the Calcutta Cup game, while Wales finished the tournament with just one win despite pushing France incredibly close.
The tournament also saw Italy claim a historic final game victory over Wales. It was Italy’s first win in the Six Nations since they beat Scotland in 2015 and ended a miserable campaign for the Welsh.
Last year’s competition showed that Ireland and France are two of the best teams in the world and a step above the rest. It seems likely that we will see this repeated as France and Ireland have continued their excellent run of form while the rest of the Six Nations teams have had mixed success since.
The reigning champions will be coming into the tournament looking to build momentum into the teams best chance of winning a world cup. This France team is coming off the back of their first Grand Slam in a decade and they have continued that good form on, with a series win over Japan in summer 2022 despite resting a lot of their key players.
This France team is one of the best that we have ever seen and they probably have their best chance of winning a world cup in 2023. Hosting the World Cup is not always an outright guarantee of success, as England showed in 2015. But the French fans will bring the noise and get behind their team.
At the time of writing they are the second best team in the world according to the World Rugby rankings. They are certainly playing like one of the best teams in the world. It starts with the teams defence. Shaun Edwards has done a wonderful job with this team and they have a solid defensive structure that is very hard to penetrate.
In attack, France have a plethora of big ball carriers, with Gregory Alldritt, Cameron Woki and Charles Ollivon all being excellent ball carriers. When these players break the line, guys like Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou and Gabien Villier can finish those chances.
The French team is stacked with stars, but they really all revolve around World Rugby Player of the Year Antoine Dupont. The scrum half is a brilliant runner, deceptively strong and a brilliant orchestrator of the French attack. Dupont does not seem to be slowing down and his fine form is continuing.
What will also excite French fans is that this team is still very young, with the majority of their stars being under the age of thirty. The teams 9-10 combination will be just 26 and 24 when the World Cup starts, meaning they may actually have more to come.
This Six Nations represents a great opportunity for France to continue their momentum into the World Cup, but they should also keep an eye on working on their depth as injuries hit every team during a gruelling World Cup campaign.
At the time of writing, Ireland are ranked as the number one team in the world. It is because 2022 saw the team achieve their greatest feat in rugby, winning a test series in New Zealand for the first time in the teams history. 1994 was the last time a team achieved this and without a World Cup title, many have looked at it as the teams greatest achievement.
There is a huge amount of momentum with this team and it starts with great coaching at the top. Andy Farrell has truly put his terrible 2015 World Cup campaign with England behind him and Ireland have been brilliant since his appointment in 2019. Part of that is also putting the right coaches in place, with Mike Catt orchestrating a lethal attack and Irish legend Paul O’Connell running the teams lineout.
These coaches have helped Ireland to some impressive results over the last couple of years, coming off the back of a disappointing 2019 World Cup. Ireland finished second in last year’s Six Nations after a close loss to France, but this year that game is being held in Ireland which is massive for this team.
This Irish team contains a lot of superstars. Johnny Sexton is crucial to the team he makes this team click. There should be some concern about relying so heavily on a 38 year old for the World Cup, but Sexton is being managed very carefully and he won’t be playing many games in the lead up to the tournament.
Outside of Sexton, Josh van der Flier is in phenomenal form and looking like one of the best players in the world. He can do it all and is a menace to opposition attackers. The backline contains players who can make the line breaks and Ireland have one of the strongest scrums in the world upfront.
This tournament will be a crucial one for Ireland as they build to the World Cup. Ireland have been known in the past for peaking in between World Cup’s and Andy Farrell’s team will be looking to continue their momentum into the World Cup and the Six Nations presents an opportunity to continue this.
More than any other team, Ireland need a good Six Nations and they also need to see how their depth can perform if there are injuries to crucial players like Sexton, Tadhg Furlong and Robbie Henshaw as a lack of depth can really hurt a team in a world cup.
After finishing third in the Six Nations last year, it is difficult to see the plan with this England team. Eddie Jones will have been very pleased with the series win in Australia, but losing to Argentina in the first game of the Autumn Internationals shows that this team still has a long way to go.
Throughout his time with England, Eddie Jones has always spoken about the Six Nations as a good way to prepare for the World Cup and this will likely be the case in 2023. England won’t be focused on results, but instead finding a way for this attack to function. The attack is struggling to fire and injuries have meant England rarely play their best team.
England won’t be looking at the title in the 2023 Six Nations, but should hope to find some consistency in their line-up. This team will look to make strides forward and even if they finish third again, losses to France and Ireland are no surprise.
They have a mixed squad and Eddie Jones needs to make a decision on certain players. Guys like Jack van Poortvliet, Marcus Smith, Henry Arundell and Johnny Hill need a prolonged stretch in the team and England need more consistency with their depth as key injuries could be killer for this team.
This is a Wales side going through a lot of change also. This is certainly not the same team that won the competition in 2021 and there are a lot of youngsters being brought into the side.
Despite all of the change there has been some good performances. Wales came close to an incredible series victory in South Africa in summer 2022 and there are reasons to be positive. Louis Rees-Zammit looks like one of the best young players In the world and he will be a star at the World Cup.
Not only that, but Tommy Reffell has been lighting up the Premiership and Adam Beard is a certainty at lock now. The Six Nations also gives another opportunity for Christ Tshiunza to make his stand as the starter in this Welsh team.
The Six Nations will be crucial to this team making changes as there are a lot of older players who have been prone to injuries. Starters like Dan Biggar, Leigh Halfpenny, Taulupe Faletau and Ken Owens are all the wrong side of 30 and have all struggled with injuries over the last few years.
Biggar is a concerning injury as he makes the team click and is missing the Autumn internationals before making a switch to Toulon. There are guys who can step in and Wales do certainly have some brilliant players who can step in.
The issue is that we have never seen these players perform well at an international level. The Six Nations gives Wales that opportunity, but it seems far fetched for them to be able to challenge for the title as they are not quite at the level of Ireland or France. Wales were the team that pushed France the closest, holding the Grand Slam winners to jut 13 points but only scored 9 points in return.
But their campaign was not remembered for the close loss to France. Wales losing to Italy in the last minute meant they dropped to fifth. It was a terrible result and Wales will be looking to bounce back.
This Scottish team is in a strange place at the moment. In the lead up to the World Cup there is a lot of optimism about Scottish Rugby at the moment, led by some superstars who are excelling domestically outside of Scotland.
Finn Russell is the big talking point of this team. The 30 year old has been in and out of the team and there is certainly a rift between Russell and head coach Gregor Townsend, stemming from a few disciplinary incidents. But Russell is by far Scotland’s best player and there is certainly a drop when he is not playing, shown by the loss to Australia in October.
Outside of Russell, Stuart Hogg, Duhan van der Merwe, Johnny Gray and Cameron Redpath are all excelling outside of Scotland. There is also a lot of optimism because both Scottish teams had a good first season of the URC.
The Six Nations seems to start pretty well for Scotland as they defeated England last year. There was hope that Scotland could build off this particularly with some of the talent this team has. But they failed to capitalise on a lead against Wales and then did not come close to beating Ireland and France.
But there is still a lot of optimism in this Scottish team and the 2023 Six Nations would be the perfect time to make the most of it.
Last year was a good campaign for Italy. They claimed their first win in the competition since 2015 and their first win against a Tier 1 side since 2016. While some have looked at the result as a fluke, I think it is much more likely a result of Italian rugby certainly coming out of the good side of a rebuild.
This Italian team is young and exciting, starting with captain Michele Lamaro who will be just 25 when the World Cup starts. Italy has a lot of young players who will be crucial to this campaign, no much more so than Paolo Garbisi. Displacing World Cup winning fly-half Handre Pollard is an impressive achievement and shows the quality of the 22 year old.
Ange Capuozzo certainly made a name for himself in last years tournament and he will look to light it up again. Monty Ioane is another exciting back, with Tommaso Allan providing the experience to this backline.
Kieran Crowley has done an excellent job with this team and they will look for another win next year, to set the team up for a good World Cup. They will be looking to get through the pool stage for the first time in the teams history, but that seems unlikely as they would need against New Zealand or France.
Players to Watch
It would be easy to look at the superstars for this tournament, but it is really the last chance for players on the fringe to make their mark. I believe that Charles Ollivon will be very important to this team and he will be looking to bounce back, missing France’s Grand Slam winning campaign last year with injury.
Rio Dyer is another exciting prospect who really exploded onto the international stage against the All Blacks in November 2022. He can form one of the best wing partnerships in the world alongside Louis Rees-Zammit. Dyer has been tearing it up for the Dragons and it is good to see him getting the chance on the international stage.
Jack Dempsey, Freddie Steward and Robert Baloucoune will all likely be stars looking to secure themselves in the international side.
It seems unlikely that anyone outside of France or Ireland will end up winning the Six Nations. There appears to be a gap between the top two teams and the rest of the sides in the competition. Ireland and France are exceptional and they are unlikely to be beaten by any other side.
I do see Ireland edging it this time around, particularly with the game between the two sides being held in Dublin. But France will be second still and then the rest of the tournament is difficult to put together. It is difficult to judge exactly who is going to finish where.