It’s that time of year again when the 10 Nations International Rugby Championship starts to ramp up.
With the well established and highly regarded Six Nations tournament again joining its fixtures with its younger better cousin, the 10 Nations seems to have fallen a little off the radar so far this year. However with the June Test window now only a matter of weeks away the familiar buzz has started with 10 Nations points on offer and chances to hold the championship Vo-Vos won or lost.
But before we get to 2016 we must give highest congratulations to Ireland – 2014 10 Nations champions!
Yes, just when you thought New Zealand had won everything up on offer the 10 Nations throws up an alternative champion, who liked their biscuits and word has it are hungry for more.
All of us here at 10 Nations rugby must apologise for the lack of fanfare surrounding their win at the time (as well as the unexplained disappearance of the 2014 tournament progress midway through the season) which was an unfortunate caused by a serious laptop malfunction. Rest assured that the laptop has decided to somehow fix itself and despite regular unexplained beeps, grunts and clickings the fans can be confident that the issue will never affect the tournament ever again.
Given there was no tournament in 2015 due to unresolved conflict with the rugby World Cup the Irish contest this year’s tournament as reigning champs. This brings us neatly to the 2016 tournament. As usual the teams contesting the tournament are the top ten Nations in world rugby as of the first IRB ranking update of the year:
– New Zealand
– South Africa
An interesting mix of teams this year with Japan making their 10n debut though it is a shame that schedulers couldn’t manage to coordinate more games for the Japanese. Of the Northern Hemisphere big six the Italians drop out for this year’s tournament while Scotland will be looking forward to make the most of their time in the tournament.
England are currently sitting happily on top of the table after their 6n grand slam.
Their match in Australia will be a big one and a victory would put them with inside running for the title with only matches against South Africa and Argentina to play in November.
The only remaining team from the north in realistic contention for the title place is Wales with only the single loss in the Six Nations. Another loss to New Zealand in June, however, would effectively consign them to playing for arrowroots so expect the dragons to leave nothing in the tank in Wellington.
Obviously New Zealand will have a big say in how this year’s tournament plays out as always and will feel their World Cup triumph somewhat meaningless until they can also claim themselves the 10 Nations title. Of course the other southern hemisphere teams are never to be discounted and will be very keen to break their 10 Nations duck and remove the monkey from their backs, as well as New Zealand’s perennial bragging rights as a former winner in one glorious swoop.
Without a doubt all will be raring to start the chase and make some serious moves up the table. Wins in June and then against their other rugby championship teams would provide an excellent springboard for any of them before the tournament’s November climax.
Looking ahead the next big date to mark in your calendars is 18th of June with three matches involving all of the top three placed Northern Hemisphere teams and the top placed Southern Hemisphere from the 2014 10N (and coincidentally the recent 2015 the World Cup). When we wake up on the 19th the field of genuine contenders for 2016 will have been considerably narrowed. As in all 10 Nations fixtures tension and emotions will be high for players and supporters alike however the quality of the teams and added uniqueness of such a series of clashes being played in the south should make this a special and memorable 24 hours.
As always full details of results and the tournament scoring system can be found on the tournament website here.