Whatever happens this year, it is going to be an incredible Guinness Six Nations.
What’s amazing about this Championship is that this opening weekend is really a massive decider of what way the order goes, when you’ve got England at Ireland and Wales at France, it really already sets the tone for that dynamic of probably how it is going to start to look.
Whoever comes out on top in Ireland v England I favour to go on and win the Championship and then if Wales beat France I favour Wales to possibly be the thorn in the side of that.
Of course you can never discount France, Scotland and Italy either. I just can’t wait for the first ball to be kicked.
France vs Wales
I think it’s a cracking way to start the Guinness Six Nations, I think it’s a real test of where both those teams are.
With France, I know its stereotypical, but you never know exactly how they’re going to turn up, how they’re going to start a Championship.
I do feel with it being at home on the back of a lot of their players playing well in Europe over the last couple of weeks, I expect a big physical encounter from them.
I just feel there’s something about Wales at the moment, they’ve got their core group of players back home, they had a very successful autumn and they’re quietly going about their business, nothing too loud and brash and I think they’re too good a team to write off.
I think France are going to be very compact up front, physical, they’ve got some fantastic finishers in their side, but on the whole I really like the way Wales are playing at the moment, they’ve added layers to their game over the last year which I like to see.
I think a little bit of that Scarlets influence in the way they attack has been exciting to see and also players like Dan Biggar have been on great form in the Premiership for Northampton as well.
I just feel with all their players, more control, central contracts, I have a good feeling about Wales going into that Friday night.
Scotland vs Italy
I think it’s a great way for Scotland to kick off the Championship. I think again they’re a team with huge potential in this Championship they beat England last year and they have got a really talented side.
I love the width they attack with, the way they move the ball, their pack has been impressive up front, especially with WP Nel back – he’s been playing great.
I see them as a hard team to beat and I think this is a good game for them to ease into the Championship, after having a little time away these first games are always for me one of the hardest of the competition because you’re coming in cold to Test match intensity.
Italy are going to be resilient in every game this competition but the other five teams, especially four of the other five are really starting to hit some strides which I think will be hard to stop
Italy’s rugby has come forward massively. Conor O’Shea deserves a huge amount of credit, you can see that by the way he’s hands-on with the way the set-up at home is working, they’re bringing through players now, they’ve got a good group of core young players, they’ve still got some old veterans, they have a lot of experience.
Ireland vs England
What a game. This will have such a bearing on who wins.
It really is mouth-watering and you have got to favour Ireland after what they did in the autumn, beating the All Blacks, but I’m not counting England out of this game.
When you see the team that Eddie Jones’ had to pick, even without Ben Te’o, I just think it’s the first time he’s been able to pick the majority of all his firepower at once.
Having both Vunipola brothers back I think is going to be huge for England because you just can’t make up for those carries on the field.
I love the fact that you’ve got Ellis Genge as well who can be brought on as a carrier later in the game.
I think fully loaded with the players they have, Owen Farrell at the helm, some of the exciting pace out wide, I think they’re going to be so much better this Championship than last.
At the same time Ireland you could argue are the best team in the world and you’re playing them at their home so you favour Ireland but it’s the opening game.
Neither team has had that game to get up to Test speed so it depends on who really hits the ground running, you’ll see in the first ten minutes who’s slightly more up to the intensity and I’d say they probably win the day.