2015 Rugby World Cup Schedule And Ticket Prices Rugby – Six Nations Preview 2015

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Rugby – Six Nations Preview 2015

With the first and surely plum game of the weekend taking place tonight at the Millennium Stadium, here are some thoughts on this year’s Six Nations tournament.

Ireland seems to be the favorite, closely followed by England. Unfortunately, given their lack of depth, Ireland are unlikely to live up to the bookies’ rave reviews. Despite their impressive results in the autumn internationals, the Irish start the tournament without Heaslip, Healy and Sexton, who are absolutely vital to their cause. That shouldn’t worry them too much against Italy, even away from home, but Sexton’s ongoing concussion issues must be a huge concern not just for this tournament but for the World Cup as well. Their lack of class replacements is highlighted by the fact that loose forward O’Brien, who has hardly played any rugby since his long-term injury, was selected for this game. Kearney, Bowe and Zebo form a strong back three, the midfield combination in the O’Driscoll/D’Arcy era is useful, O’Connell, O’Mahony, O’Brien and Best are all world class forwards, but Ireland without Sexton are the least 20% less efficient.

England should probably be favorites for the Six Nations, although they have been particularly hard hit by injuries. Farrell, Tuilagi, Morgan, Lawes, Wilson, Launchbury, Parling, Barritt, Eastmond and Tom Wood are absent for the Wales visit. With a balanced combination, Wales will expect to win this match, but an upset will be a huge boost for England and make them firm favorites for the title. None of the other teams have anything like the resources of the Englishmen. Even though the top three goals are missing in this game, they are capable of putting a solid second line on the field. Tight ends remain a significant weapon for them, and there are still quality backs like Mike Brown. On the outside, especially against Wales, weaknesses could be exploited if the Welsh are brave enough to ensure North and Cuthbert get the ball. As the tournament progresses, England will need to add aspects to their game outside of dominating up front. There won’t be enough strikers at the World Cup against teams from the southern hemisphere.

On paper, Wales look like a good team, but whether they have the mental strength of the amazing sides of the seventies is doubtful. With the addition of Webb at scrum half, the back line looks complete and very dangerous. Biggar has to be the best player at the World Cup and has had a great three quarters off it. The loose trio of Lydiate, Warburton and Faletau are top-notch, but a lot will depend on the front five. If they can match fire for fire against an old foe tonight, Wales should feel satisfied.

The most difficult team in world rugby to analyze is always the French. So unpredictable and so team spirited, one never knows what to expect from the French. Two South Africans, Kockott and Spedding, will make their starting debuts tomorrow and the Kockott/Lopez combination is the 14th halfback pairing of the Saint Andre era. After missing the entire 2014 campaign, Dusautoir is back and part of a useful back three in the scrum. Bastareaud and Fofana are a dangerous central pairing and the pace is wide. France need a win at home against Scotland, but whatever happens we’re likely to be none the wiser as to the French’s options going forward.

Scotland boast their most balanced team for many years. The tight five is impressive with Murray, Ford and Dickinson in the front row, backed by the very large Gray brothers. Unusually for the Scots, they have pace and size on the wings in Visser and Seymour and the elusive Hogg at the back. However, once injuries occur, the lack of depth is exposed. As always, they will play close to their ability.

Italy are likely to be the whipping boys of the tournament. Only the admirable Sergio Parisse and the aging Castrogiovanni are world class. They will likely be at the front of the pack, but are likely to find it tough at the back as always, where they don’t have the pace, size or skill to trouble the best.

It’s a fairly open tournament this year and probably four sides can win it.

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