Six Nations: The key factors that could decide the Championship

 

 

Plan for the pitches…

There continue to be huge doubts about the pitches cutting up badly in Paris and Edinburgh; one blighted by a lack of sun, the other by parasitic worms. It’s the same for both sides, but every team at Stade de France and Murrayfield must be ready for the scrums becoming a lottery.

Taking a risk with an eye on 2015

England have had success with young players — think Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury, Owen Farrell, the Vunipola brothers — and Stuart Lancaster says it’s now or never to find contenders for the 2015 World Cup squad. So George Ford must be given a go at fly-half; ditto either or both Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell.

England’s conundrum – the back three

England are perming three from eight for their wings and full-back. They have used Mike Brown, an avowed No 15, on the left wing. Chris Ashton, Nowell and Watson all favour the right wing; Nowell and Watson also enjoy playing at full-back, where Alex Goode is another contender. Only Jonny May of Gloucester is a natural on the left, but he has also been a centre recently. A tricky one.

Get the back-row balance right

Scotland’s captain Kelly Brown is not even sure of a start but if he gets one it will be as a No 7, even though his club, Saracens, use him elsewhere in the back row. The wrong balance will kill the Scots’ plans. Ireland have lost a world-class  openside in the injured Sean O’Brien.

We came, we saw, we kept it tight

Italy’s coach Jacques Brunel was asked what he would do about Wales’s big backs. “Just keep it in the forwards!” Brunel smiled. And they just might. Monumental defence helped Italy overcome France last year, and Ireland went tryless when also beaten by the Azzurri’s physical effort in Rome.

Don’t underestimate the Italians

Italy’s captain Sergio Parisse says his team need to be playing at 100 per cent of their capability, and receive a slice of luck, to win Six Nations matches, whereas England and France can make do at 90 per cent. Opponents must not fall for this cute Azzurri psychology.

Be ready from the very first minute…

Wales blew a possible Grand Slam last year when they trailed 30-3 to Ireland after 45 minutes of the opening match and could not quite overturn that deficit. France were beaten in Italy on weekend one. “That set the tone for the whole year,” said coach Philippe Saint-André, whose team won only twice in 2013.

is it too silly to think of picking Stevens?

Already straitjacketed by not picking players from French clubs, England are short of cover at tighthead prop, with Davey Wilson among eight players injured. If something happens to Dan Cole and young Henry Thomas, protocol would rule out the internationally retired Matt Stevens. But protocol never pushed in a scrum.

Scott’s fitness for Scotland…

Possibly the most promising centre in the Six Nations is Scotland’s Matt Scott, but he has been injured since the first autumn international. “I wouldn’t put him in against Ireland unless he can go the distance,” says coach Scott Johnson. But can the Scots win without him?

France must find a fly-half

In a position dominated by foreigners in their league, France have rejected François Trinh-Duc and in-form Jules Plisson for Rémi Talès, who has five caps at the age of 29. Last year Fréddy Michalak got the nod. They need to find the right  fly-half and stick with him.

 

Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders