Six Nations: Ten things that could make the difference


The Six Nations has something about it that makes it just that little bit more special than any other annual tournament. Our antipodean friends might feel differently about this, but the approach of the Six Nations always conjures up images in my mind of Jason Leonard with his ears taped and his collar up, of Brian Moore with his face smothered in Vaseline and his collar tucked in, and of Dean Richards running games singlehandedly with his socks around his ankles. There is heritage, genuine rivalry and, above almost all else, good old bragging rights. So this year, with as much at stake as there ever was, what might make all the difference?

The Ref

Referees have copped some stick lately but, with margins tighter and criticism more public, they are more important than ever. Let gorillas scrummage and they might just self-regulate. But if you micro-manage the unmanageable, it might just cost you your anonymity.

Mister Wales

Put simply, if Adam Jones (plays, Wales might just reverse their horrid recent form. If he doesn't, they will stand far less chance. The mighty, Haystacks-haired Merthyr man's brute strength and staunch mindset has seen him become the most valuable player in Wales.

The Irish back row

Yes, Stephen Ferris is a world-beater and is not playing, but in Chris Henry, Ireland have a man on a mission. Henry has for some time been an influential force in the Ulster machine, but recently he has hit new heights. He has quietly been one of the most destructive, intelligent players in the Heineken Cup this season, and his inclusion will see the loss of Ferris tempered somewhat.

The French temperament

This has been one of the less explicable nuances of the game for a long time. I am told by Frenchmen with whom I have played that this all stems back to days when inter-town rugby was tribal in its ferocity, when defending one's home meant everything. Either way, we are still left wondering what kind of French team will turn up. I worry that the side led by Pascal Papé might be rather a good one.

Good old-fashioned mind games

Scott Johnson has started it already and I love it. Not since the days of Brian Moore has pre-match banter had any real spice, so I hope I am not alone in hoping someone from Camp England says something inappropriate soon. Not likely…

The Lions tour

All of the home unions' players will be praying for performances good enough to make the big tour this summer. But most of them will know that being a strong team player is what will get you there. All any team need is one bloke to try too hard to impress alone and the other 14 are compromised. Beware the aspiring Lion.

Italian stubbornness

The Italians do not win very often, but after beating Scotland in Rome last year they will be eyeing a young Scottish team with foam at their mouths this time around. The Azzurri are a gnarled, awkward, abrasive bunch and, frankly, they are a new boy's worst nightmare. So the Scots had better be on their guard.

Scottish rookies

Ten uncapped players in any squad is a big shift but remember that, for the forwards at least, there is a new coach to get to know as well. Dean Ryan is a brilliant mind and an experienced leader, so expect his team to play with nous and steel. But I still think Scotland might struggle for sheer firepower when Wales and Ireland drop in for a rumble.

Fortress Twickenham

I know England lost twice in the autumn, but the demolition of the All Blacks was more than just a great win. That performance will have catapulted the players' confidence into another realm and, when added to the old-school ethics and belief that run through head coach Stuart Lancaster, in my view Twickers once again looks set to become a place that opponents rightly fear.


Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific