The warm embrace of the Six Nations

Andrew Roar Pro

By Andrew, Andrew is a Roar Pro

90 Have your say

    The commencement of the 2018 edition of the Six Nations heralds the return of international rugby, Eddie Jones, centuries-old gripes against the English, fantastic Italian hair, warm pubs and industrial amounts of Guinness to our lives.

    It also means the return of a conflict as old as time itself, for as night turns to day and day turns to night, from Aberdeen to Aberystwyth, Ballymena to Brighton, pubs in February and March will erupt in to wholly preventable arguments as to which TV’s will show the rugby and which will show the football.

    Upon arrival on the cold shores of Britain in early 2014, I sought to integrate and ingratiate myself with the locals by deciding to watch Northern Hemisphere rugby for the first time in my life.

    Expecting to have to subject myself to ‘thrilling’ 6-3 victories, whispers of the existence of outside backs and standing ovations for the fourth scrum reset, I instead discovered the best rugby crowds in the world and a fascinating mix of playing approaches, with personalities and characters abound on the field and in the coaching and commentary boxes (Stuart Barnes the notable, tedious exception).

    Of course, it helps that the first two editions I witnessed (2014 and 2015) were thrilling in nature, with the final day shootout of 2015 living long in the memory. There were tries raining down on every match in unprecedented fashion as Wales, Ireland and England desperately tried to boost their points differential. The valiant loss is increasingly becoming unacceptable and obsolete up here.

    It is one of life’s simple pleasures to sit or stand in a warm, preferably fire-lit pub, pint in hand while it’s freezing cold outside, watching and listening to a packed Millennium Stadium, Murrayfield, Twickenham or Lansdowne Road sing and roar and be deathly silent for kickers.

    That’s before we even mention the gloriously petty airing of grievances for perceived historical slights, most of which involve heavy geo-political overtones, all-in brawls, biased refs and French eye-gouging.

    New Zealand captain Richie McCaw

    (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

    The home straight to next year’s World Cup is slowly coming over the horizon, and every Test match counts towards building confidence for that, so here is my slightly informed, slightly biased preview of each team.

    England
    There’s honestly not much else than can be said about this Eddie Jones England team – they win, they execute the basics superbly, have pace and are deserved favourites. They also have likeable players (blasphemy I know) in Maro Itoje, Chris Robshaw, Jonny May and Anthony Watson. This is of course heavily outweighed by the fact that any squad with the colossally annoying Mike Brown, Joe Marler and Dylan Hartley is beyond remittal. Injuries the main worry.

    France
    They sacked their coach a few weeks ago and their president is under police investigation – a pretty quiet month for French rugby standards. They don’t make it easy to not use the “which French team will show up” cliché, but they will either ruin one of the home nations title aspirations with a gritty win, or there’ll be a player-led revolt by week three. Probably both.

    Scotland
    For the first time in recorded history there is an expectation that Scotland could possibly win a sporting tournament. My personal favourite to watch, the Scots have gone to the next level under Gregor Townsend after the fine rebuilding job undertaken by Vern Cotter, and they boast arguably the most exciting player in world rugby, Stuart Hogg.

    Came within a whisker of beating the All Blacks a couple of months ago and have made Murrayfield a relative fortress. Despite the shellacking at the hands of England last year, they’ll be more mentally steeled this year.

    Scotland's Stuart Hogg

    (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

    Ireland
    Always seem to be perpetual favourites or thereabouts, Joe Schmidt’s men have been through it all in the past five years, with the only potential downfall being depth in case injuries strike.

    Talisman Johnny Sexton is not getting any younger or less concussion-prone, and his presence is key whenever they play. Alas the IRFU also have the perfect model in central contracts while monitoring the workload of players. All four provinces performing strongly.

    Wales
    Give in Warren, give in. Forget these fanciful notions of “expansive rugby” and “passing more than once in a phase”, just sign Jamie Roberts, George North and Alex Cuthbert to 20-year deals ensuring they can never be dropped, and re-name the sport ‘Warrenball’ in Wales. We know it’s what you truly desire. In all seriousness they will struggle mightily without Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies spark.

    Italy
    As much as I like and admire Conor O’Shea, this will probably be the 19th year in a row that Italy disappoint, despite how cool and funny the no-ruck strategy was against England last year. One win will be a success.

    Winners Prediction: Ireland (in bold)

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    The Crowd Says (90)

    • February 1st 2018 @ 6:25am
      Dan54 said | February 1st 2018 @ 6:25am | ! Report

      Yep Andrew, also looking forward to the start of 6N, a tournament I don’t think still gets the credit down here for how good it is. Wouldn’t it be great to see Scotland win it, just because they seem a team that is getting all the blocks on the right place.

      • Roar Pro

        February 1st 2018 @ 6:32am
        Andrew said | February 1st 2018 @ 6:32am | ! Report

        Too right mate – for too long they have been in the doldrums and the rugby romantic in me wants them to win it, as England, Wales and Ireland have all had their glorious moments in the Six Nations sun this century.

        Didn’t even get to mention Finn Russell – when he is on fire the Scottish backline is as breathtaking as the All Blacks.

        • February 1st 2018 @ 3:12pm
          Dan54 said | February 1st 2018 @ 3:12pm | ! Report

          So true about Russell Andrew, isn’t it pleasure to watch the likes of him, Hogg etc play, regardless of their team!

          • February 1st 2018 @ 4:16pm
            Taylorman said | February 1st 2018 @ 4:16pm | ! Report

            Yes it is, Russell was impressive last year.Madigans another.

            With England as clear faves the others are going to have a strong defensive focus and hopefully that doesn’t close them down. With the World Cup…’next year’ all year the squads are starting to be pencilled in with the start of the 6N.

            Here we get a couple of heavy weekends towards the end of the 6N with the start of Super rugby. 9 or ten matches in one weekend can be a bit much…from famine to feast😁

            • February 1st 2018 @ 7:04pm
              FunBus said | February 1st 2018 @ 7:04pm | ! Report

              The timings perfect in the UK. Breakfast with the SR games on, and then the 6 Nations with a pub lunch and some beers – best time of the year.

            • Roar Guru

              February 1st 2018 @ 10:53pm
              Poth Ale said | February 1st 2018 @ 10:53pm | ! Report

              Madigan’s another what? Impressive last year?

    • Roar Guru

      February 1st 2018 @ 6:32am
      Kia Kaha said | February 1st 2018 @ 6:32am | ! Report

      Loved the intro, Andrew.

      Can’t see past England but as Dan states above would love to see the Scots take their maiden Six Nations title.

      But I agree Ireland can spoil the party.

    • February 1st 2018 @ 7:20am
      Neil Back said | February 1st 2018 @ 7:20am | ! Report

      Damn you Andrew. The two things guaranteed to bring on severe homesickness. The thought of a live 6N and a fire lit pub you enter on a frosty bright lunchtime, and leave into evening darkness, engulfed in the impenetrable warmth of a beer overcoat and your breath in the air.

      Envy and happy for you in your discovery of the best rugby tournament in the world. Just one point. Your assimilation will be complete when you realise you must always stand pint in hand for the match, never sit.

      Enjoy!

      • February 2nd 2018 @ 4:12am
        mzillikazi said | February 2nd 2018 @ 4:12am | ! Report

        Homesickness………always assumed you were in England, Neil. So where are you currently ?

        • February 2nd 2018 @ 7:06am
          Neil Back said | February 2nd 2018 @ 7:06am | ! Report

          Although originally from God’s Own I’ve been in the Lucky One for many years.

          • Roar Guru

            February 2nd 2018 @ 6:02pm
            ThugbyFan said | February 2nd 2018 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

            Hi Neil, did it cost you 10 Pounds? 🙂

            • February 3rd 2018 @ 9:43am
              Neil Back said | February 3rd 2018 @ 9:43am | ! Report

              Not that old Thugs. These days you have to pay a bit more, work a lot harder and be a lot smarter than the majority of Australians to be Australian 😏

              • February 3rd 2018 @ 9:48am
                Fionn said | February 3rd 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

                Well you were smart enough to leave some of the world’s worst weather for a warm paradise, so you’re clearly up there with the best

              • February 3rd 2018 @ 1:32pm
                Neil Back said | February 3rd 2018 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

                The weather’s the only reason to leave affordable housing and civilisation on your doorstep Fionn.

              • February 3rd 2018 @ 6:58pm
                Fionn said | February 3rd 2018 @ 6:58pm | ! Report

                Isn’t housing in many parts of southern England about as expensive as Australia, or is it only around London and Bristol (from what I’ve heard)?

                Luckily, in this modern age, we have access to all of the best British TV, movies, media, etc. Only to go with a far more habitable climate, and much wider array of food (as good as the Indian and many continental cuisines are in Britain).

              • February 3rd 2018 @ 8:02pm
                FunBus said | February 3rd 2018 @ 8:02pm | ! Report

                Wider array of food? When did you last visit the UK Fionn?😀

              • February 3rd 2018 @ 8:58pm
                Neil Back said | February 3rd 2018 @ 8:58pm | ! Report

                Bristol?!

              • February 3rd 2018 @ 10:17pm
                Fionn said | February 3rd 2018 @ 10:17pm | ! Report

                2016, FunBus. As much as there are many immigrants in London there is not the same number of migrants as in Australia, and the migrants in Australia seem to be from a wider array of countries.

                The Spanish and Latin American food were better in England, however. And I do quite like British puddings, pies and the rest, especially during a miserable British or Irish winter when the grey clouds, wind and rain seem endless.

              • February 3rd 2018 @ 10:37pm
                Fionn said | February 3rd 2018 @ 10:37pm | ! Report

                Are you in London, FunBus?

              • February 3rd 2018 @ 11:29pm
                FunBus said | February 3rd 2018 @ 11:29pm | ! Report

                No, just moved back to England after 4 years abroad to a small seaside town. There are two Michelin starred restaurants at the end of my street. London is now one of the gourmet capitals of the world, but the big change is the quality across the country. 30 years ago it was average outside of London, but there’s been a bit of a foodie revolution. Liked the restaurants in Sydney, though, and had a cracking weekend visiting the vineyards around Adelaide on another trip (what I remember if it).😀

              • February 3rd 2018 @ 11:53pm
                Fionn said | February 3rd 2018 @ 11:53pm | ! Report

                Mate, they’re not the places I’m able to afford to eat at regularly 😜. I’d love to go to the Fat Duck in Bray run by Heston Blumenthal though. That’s always been a dream.

                I haven’t actually seen much of the UK beyond a small part of England. Next time I go I need to go up north and hopefully to northern Scotland also.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 7:59pm
                Dublin Dave said | February 5th 2018 @ 7:59pm | ! Report

                “These days you have to pay a bit more, work a lot harder and be a lot smarter than the majority of Australians to be Australian”

                But fortunately this is not difficult. Badum Tish!! 🙂

            • February 4th 2018 @ 9:10am
              Bakkies said | February 4th 2018 @ 9:10am | ! Report

              They have a Michelin star restaurant in Brayruit?

              ‘As much as there are many immigrants in London there is not the same number of migrants as in Australia, and the migrants in Australia seem to be from a wider array of countries.’

              You will be surprised at that. Even with Brexit the migrant numbers will still be high in London. I say a massive majority have been in London long enough to get Permanent Residency.

              • February 4th 2018 @ 11:23am
                Fionn said | February 4th 2018 @ 11:23am | ! Report

                Yeah, they will, but migrants are still more located in smaller geographic pockets of UK so far as I am aware, and I think there is a higher % of migrants from smaller number of countries in the UK than Australia (more from eastern and southern Europe + few former colonies in particular).

                Affordable French food in England was far superior to Australia. Even in Ireland there was a very nice French cafe in the Alliance Francais opposite Trinity that was very nice French cuisine much more affordable than in Australia.

                When you’re next in Dublin try a place called Damascus Gate too. Very good when I was there a few years ago.

    • February 1st 2018 @ 10:12am
      taylorman said | February 1st 2018 @ 10:12am | ! Report

      Well I’ll be watching it as there’s been a bit of a vacuum at the moment, NH club matches akin to an all barbarians spot the locals tournament.

      England to win, they have the right blend of home matches and depth to cover injuries based on their Argie tour last year, but regardless, lets hope the pace and quality of the games match the early Super rugby rounds and we see a good number of non pushover tries.

      One thing about the 6N is the atmosphere can sometimes have a strangling effect of the sides where things get too tense nobody wants to try anything, when that is exactly when they should. But that’s been a fifty year learning curve alone where everyone suddenly runs everything in the last round to make up for what they didnt do earlier.

      Wasn’t so bad last year but in 2015- 89 points first round 221 the last? 2016- 100 first round 203 the last. I mean hellooo…

      • February 1st 2018 @ 11:19am
        Neil Back said | February 1st 2018 @ 11:19am | ! Report

        Liked it. Not a classic from you TM, but it’s early doors.

        • February 1st 2018 @ 4:08pm
          Taylorman said | February 1st 2018 @ 4:08pm | ! Report

          Yeah I’m looking forward to it actually. If there’s one thing these matches have is it’s atmosphere. Seems there’s a lot less star players around these days at test level, most have left test rugby and squads are rebuilding, except probably Ireland who still hang on to their older players.

          • February 1st 2018 @ 4:31pm
            Neil Back said | February 1st 2018 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

            Yep. Still early I guess.

      • Roar Guru

        February 1st 2018 @ 11:48am
        Poth Ale said | February 1st 2018 @ 11:48am | ! Report

        Weather. Pitch. Better.

        • February 4th 2018 @ 9:16am
          Bakkies said | February 4th 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

          Yep. Paris always churns up poor matches littered with scrum resets and players coming off their feet. A lot of it is to do with the pitch cutting up. Due to the stadium’s location (hence the frozen pitch fiasco years back) they can’t have undersoil heating yet Laporte and his cronies tore up the approved plans to build a new Rugby stadium in the south of Paris that would have addressed that issue. It would also have addressed the transport issue for those coming from the southern parts of France.

      • February 1st 2018 @ 3:43pm
        Cuw said | February 1st 2018 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

        well hope for better weather than the snow during last round of Heineken cup.

        there was a funny moment when Ben Tameifuna did one of his usual runs and was tackled – then he slid on the ground like 10m , all becoz of the snow – like a polar bear 😀

    • February 1st 2018 @ 10:34am
      AJ said | February 1st 2018 @ 10:34am | ! Report

      “industrial amounts of Guinness” say no more. (I can never get the hang of just sipping it slowly though).

      • February 4th 2018 @ 9:17am
        Bakkies said | February 4th 2018 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        You can’t sip it slowly as the longer you leave it goes flat and the glass warms up. The next day is spent on the bog.

    • February 1st 2018 @ 11:34am
      Highlanders said | February 1st 2018 @ 11:34am | ! Report

      Thanks andrew

      If I may take a slightly different view

      Scotland have 2 entire front rows out and likely no chance no matter how much they run it

      Wales are truly decimated

      England for all the injury talk have only Billy V and Daly out from the starting XV

      England Ireland shootout again, looking forward to the tournament

      • February 1st 2018 @ 6:59pm
        Cuw said | February 1st 2018 @ 6:59pm | ! Report

        bans the bane for England … 🙂

        Haskel Marler Sinckler.

      • February 1st 2018 @ 10:28pm
        FunBus said | February 1st 2018 @ 10:28pm | ! Report

        The issue for England is the cover and where the injuries have taken place. With Vunipola, Hughes and now Mercer out, they’re down to one number ‘8’ that has ever been in an England squad, and he’s not a ‘heavy’ ball carrier. At LH they’re missing Marler, Genge, Mullan and Obano, meaning if either Vunipola or Hepburn gets injured the next off the rank is a 21 year old kid who hasn’t even got many Aviva prem games under his belt.

      • February 2nd 2018 @ 9:41pm
        Cuw said | February 2nd 2018 @ 9:41pm | ! Report

        England name their best XV

        England:

        15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Ben Te’o, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs,

        8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Mako Vunipola

        Replacements:

        16 Jamie George, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 George Kruis, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Danny Care, 22 Jonathan Joseph, 23 Jack Nowell

        Date: Sunday, February 4

        Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome

        Kick-off: 15:00 GMT

        Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)

        Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Nic Berry (Australia)

        TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

        • February 3rd 2018 @ 9:54am
          Neil Back said | February 3rd 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

          Like the idea of using this game to blow some cobwebs off T’eo as he returns from injury. There’s a serious change of pace facing Italy in the final third – there’s a far more mobile English front row and in the backs, JJ, Jack and Care waiting on the bench.

        • February 4th 2018 @ 9:13am
          Taylorman said | February 4th 2018 @ 9:13am | ! Report

          Geez, what a good side, may as well give them the title now, I would if Billy was there.

          • February 4th 2018 @ 9:58am
            FunBus said | February 4th 2018 @ 9:58am | ! Report

            Hope you’re right, T-Man, but the 6 Nations is probably the most unpredictable competition in sport let alone rugby.

            • February 4th 2018 @ 10:15am
              Goatee said | February 4th 2018 @ 10:15am | ! Report

              ‘The 6 Nations is probably the most unpredictable competition in sport let alone rugby.’

              Yes. Furthermore, the winner is rarely, if ever, a foregone conclusion after Round 1, regardless of predictions beforehand…

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