With the beginning of Rugby’s Greatest Championship less than a fortnight away, the 2019 Guinness Six Nations Launch took place at London’s Hurlingham Club on Wednesday.
At a star-studded event attended by the coaches, captains, former players and the world’s media, each nation set out its goals for the monumental campaigns ahead.
With all of the key figures for the Championship sharing their views on the best runners and riders for 2019, these are out top ten quotes of the day.
1) England face a tricky opening clash against Ireland in Dublin but coach Eddie Jones was bullish ahead of the game: “Ireland will be tough but we’re planning to win. Our expectations are the same. Go to Ireland and win – that’s been the same at every Championship.”
2) Scotland skipper Greig Laidlaw is pleased that the country’s ever-improving performance, results and easy-on-the-eye rugby is winning over the great Scottish public: “We’ve really reconnected with people up in Scotland and we’ve sold out our last 14 Test matches. They’re selling out quicker and quicker and it gives us a sense of connection with the people.”
3) Ireland captain Rory Best is stamping out any complacency before it even gets started: “It’s something we’re not focusing on, being favourites, that’s something that is external to the group. We met on Sunday and talked about making sure we prepare well. We’re going to meet a strong England team and we need to prepare well – it’s going to be a massive challenge.”
4) England Women have home matches in Doncaster, Exeter and at Twickenham this year, with Red Roses captain Sarah Hunter enjoying touring around: “It’s hugely important for us to go and showcase the Red Roses around the country, when we play in Doncaster and Exeter, and show what we are all about. Last time we played at Castle Park (Doncaster) the fans were amazing. Wherever we go we’ll have the Red Rose support along the way.”
5) Wales Women skipper Carys Phillips highlighted the country’s youth as a major positive: “We’ve developed our youngsters and they’ve come on massively. We’ve got some 18-year-olds on eight caps now, and that’s a huge plus for us this year.”
6) Meanwhile her male counterpart Alun Wyn Jones wasn’t getting sucked into the emotion of head coach Warren Gatland’s last Championship: “There’s been a lot of romantic things said about Gats today! But it’s going to be business as usual when we get down to it. The biggest mark of respect is to play well for your coach and that’s what we’ll try and do.”
7) Italy’s Sergio Parisse has played the most minutes of any Championship player across his career (5141), but is purely focused on creating more incredible history: “I don’t like to focus on the past, I want to focus on the present. You’re judged on your last game so personally I’m very excited to start the Guinness Six Nations and I’m hoping for a good performance in Scotland.”
8) Echoing his captain Rory Best’s stance, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt is expecting a monumental clash with England in Round 1: “We don’t have the same size of players, it could be a point of difference for them. Eddie will come up with a strategy and I respect him as a strategist. He said he was going to bring some brutality and he has some players who can bring that. I don’t think we are the clear favourites. I have enormous respect for England.”
9) Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend believes his side will be boosted by Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors both reaching the Champions Cup quarter-finals at the weekend: “The confidence from what we are doing at club level should put us in a good position but we need to transform that into a good performance against Italy. Last year we felt our game was in a good position but we did not deliver in the first game.”
10) Meanwhile, consistency is the name of the game for Italy head coach Conor O’Shea as he looks to make the most out of a promising group of players: “The skill of the players is there but we have to create a habit of intensity”