World Cup winner Will Greenwood believes Wales are contenders to claim their first Championship since 2013, with Alun Wyn Jones a likely Guinness Player of the Championship winner.
The former England and British & Irish Lions centre, who scored a remarkable 15 tries in 24 appearances in Rugby’s Greatest Championship, is clearly an admirer of Warren Gatland’s side at the beginning of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.
There have been some impressive winners of the Guinness Player of the Championship award in recent years, with Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale winning it in 2018 and Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg claiming the honour in both 2016 and 2017.
The last Welsh name on the trophy was Leigh Halfpenny in 2013, but when asked who was a probable winner this year, Greenwood identified the current Wales captain.
“I’ve picked Wales to win (the Championship) so maybe Alun Wyn Jones, but he’s a bit too obvious even though he’ll get the public vote,” said Greenwood, speaking at the 2019 Guinness Six Nations launch.
“So I’ll throw a little curveball in there as someone who can really dominate a midfield – Hadleigh Parkes – he has a knack of scoring tries – Steff Evans too.
“I’m giving you three or four lads from Wales because if Wales win they’ll need these guys to play well!”
Gatland’s men open up the 2019 Guinness Six Nations with the small matter of a trip to Paris’ Stade de France to take on Les Bleus, on Friday 1 February.
Wales pipped France 14-13 at Principality Stadium in Round Five last year and Greenwood is backing the same winners this year, although believes a certain French centre could well be influential.
He added: “I love Wales at the moment, just love them. The quality of the players is incredible but who wins will depend on if Wes (Fofana) plays – if he plays then anything can happen.
“I follow Wes like Zlatan Ibrahimovic in football or Tom Brady in American football, there’s just some players you watch and admire, so if he plays France have got a chance.
“But as I’ve picked Wales as dark horses for the Championship I’d better pick Wales to win this one!”
Whoever controls the air will win in Ireland vs England
“You’ve got to control what we would call ‘the air’. The air on restarts, high-balls, cross-kicks and throw-ins.
“When the ball is not in contact with any player for between one and three seconds, what happens next decides who wins a game of rugby. End of. Fact. Control the air and you control Dublin!
Does that mean you think Mike Brown will start for England?
“I think Mike Brown’s an awesome player and will go to Japan because of the variety he gives – read into that what you want!”
Greenwood rooting hard for Italy
“I hope Italy have a great Championship, it’s a real soft spot in my heart. I lived there for five years, my dad played rugby there in the mid-70s and we go back as often as we can.
“Nobody likes to see them struggle but I think struggle they will, and Greig Laidlaw is in my Guinness Six Nations Fantasy Rugby team so I need him to kick a bucketload of points!”
Steff Evans or Greig Laidlaw for Fantasy Rugby bargain
“Someone like Steff Evans (would be his Fantasy Rugby pick). What a fantastic try-scorer for Scarlets – he has an unbelievable ability to be in the right place at the right time.
“The flipside of that is you go for someone who is going to kick a bucketload of points.
“Greig Laidlaw will do that if Scotland do well so if you’re looking for points Laidlaw is the man to go for, because everyone else will go for Conor Murray!”