11.3 C
Manchester
Tuesday, May 21, 2024
Other SportsSix Nations 2024: France host Ireland, England visit Italy and Wales take...

Six Nations 2024: France host Ireland, England visit Italy and Wales take on Scotland – preview, how to watch and predictions

This year’s Six Nations begins on Friday with a titanic battle between the last two Grand Slam champions in France and Ireland, with the winner of the opener sure to cement their status as tournament favourites.

Having endured another miserable campaign in 2023, England will be desperate to make a strong start when they visit Italy on Saturday, before Wales welcome Scotland to Cardiff.

Here, we run the rule over the opening set of fixtures, looking at each team’s preparations and offering our predictions for opening weekend.

Read our other sports news stories here:
Guardiola won’t follow Klopp and Xavi in walking away
Kompany: Relentlessness part of Manchester City’s DNA
Haaland set for Manchester City comeback

France v Ireland

The Six Nations begins with a bang on Friday, with the two pre-tournament favourites doing battle at the Stade Velodrome as France face Ireland.

With both sides having achieved the Grand Slam when winning the last two editions (France triumphing in 2022 and Ireland emerging victorious last year), a blockbuster encounter is expected.

Add in the fact that both sides are desperate to atone for their quarter-final exits at last year’s Rugby World Cup, and we have all the ingredients for a classic.

While France will be without captain and 2021 World Player of the Year Antoine Dupont, who has been criticised in some quarters over his decision to skip the Six Nations and play sevens in preparation for the Paris Olympics, their talent pool runs deep.

Damian Penaud enters the tournament just three tries short of the national record held by Serge Blanco (38), while Gregory Alldritt, Matthieu Jalibert and Thomas Ramos are among the form players in Europe.

Ireland must also adapt following Johnny Sexton’s retirement, with Peter O’Mahony taking over as skipper for Andy Farrell’s side, who suffered last-eight heartache against New Zealand when they were last in France.

A repeat Grand Slam looks a tough ask given their schedule, but if Ireland can overcome France, as they did on home soil 12 months ago, the excitement around Farrell’s men will only grow.

Italy v England

France and Ireland are not the only teams adapting to changes ahead of this year’s tournament, with England boss Steve Borthwick picking Jamie George as his new skipper after Owen Farrell’s decision to make himself unavailable for international selection.

With England losing three of their five fixtures during each of their last three Six Nations campaigns, a significant improvement is needed this time around, but selection problems have overshadowed their preparations.

Borthwick’s team took advantage of landing on the weaker side of the draw to reach the semi-finals of last year’s World Cup, but he has had plenty of selection issues to contend with in the build-up to this tournament.

Joe Marchant has joined Farell in making himself unavailable, while Courtney Lawes and Jonny May retired after the World Cup and both Ollie Lawrence and Manu Tuilagi are injured. Fly-half Marcus Smith, meanwhile, will miss the trip to Rome due to a calf problem.

However, they will still be confident of making a winning start against Italy, who have only recorded one victory in the last eight editions of the Six Nations.

A convincing victory could be just the tonic for England after their troubled build-up, particularly with grudge matches against Wales and Scotland on the horizon.

Wales v Scotland

The opening round of fixtures will be rounded off in Cardiff, where Wales have not lost to Scotland since 2002, the Scots’ only away win in this fixture coming in Llanelli during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Wales enter the tournament in something of a rebuilding phase, having only managed one victory during last year’s Six Nations, their disappointing campaign coming against a backdrop of financial problems at the Welsh Rugby Union which led players to threaten strike action.

They have different issues this year, with captain Jac Morgan injured and Louis Rees-Zammit – their leading try-scorer at the World Cup – heading stateside to pursue an NFL career.

However, Warren Gatland’s side inspired hope with their promising run at the World Cup, which ended at the hands of Argentina in the last eight, and they have previous when it comes to springing surprises.

If Wales are to force themselves into contention for a record-equalling 29th outright Six Nations crown, Saturday’s clash with Scotland could be key.

Scotland made a flying start to the 2023 tournament with wins over England and Wales and have become a tough nut to crack under Gregor Townsend, posting three wins in five of their last seven Six Nations campaigns.

If they can end their long wait for a win in the Welsh capital, Scotland may just fancy their chances of troubling the favourites.

How to watch

Every game of the Six Nations will be shown by either the BBC or ITV in the UK. Friday’s opener in Marseille will be shown by ITV, as will England’s trip to Rome, while the BBC will screen Wales versus Scotland.

Predictions

England should get their campaign up and running in routine fashion and will have the bonus point in their sights against an Italy team they beat 33-0 on their last trip to Rome in 2022.

The other two contests are tougher to call, but Wales’ issues could be compounded by an efficient Scotland side. Home advantage may not be enough for Gatland’s men, but we expect France to come out on the right side of a thriller on Friday, avenging last year’s defeat in Dublin and laying down a marker for the rest of the tournament.

Harry Carr
Harry Carr
Harry is a freelance sports journalist with experience of working for the Racing Post, Stats Perform, Opta Analyst and more, covering major events across all sports but holding a particular love for the beautiful game.
Latest
Subscribe to our newsletter
Business Manchester will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.
Don't miss

More News