Saturday sees the return of the Six Nations Championship, showcasing the very best of the northern hemisphere’s rugby talent. The sextet of egg-chasing countries will be duking it out to decide who is currently best in what will be the 19th series of the tournament in its current format.
England are looking to make history and win it for the third time in a row. But while Eddie Jones’ men will go into the competition as favourites, this will be no stroll in the park for them. England’s rivals look in great shape. Many top rugby rugby pundits are predicting the tightest finish for years…
Rugby obsessives will no doubt have been looking forward to this for some time, but for more casual fans who don’t follow the game that intently but always love a bit of Six Nations action – this guide to the tournament here is for you.
Here’s our Six Nations preview:
Which countries are taking part?
Same as always! Well, the same countries since they added Italy and it changed from the Five Nations to the Six Nations, anyway. That was back in 2000. A full eighty years after France joined the competition. The two continental Europeans sides compete alongside England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
When’s it all happening?
The first game kicks off at 2.15pm on Saturday 3rd February. Scotland travel south west to The Millennium Stadium to play Wales in what will no doubt be a bruising yet entertaining encounter. Later that day France host Ireland, with kick off at 5.45pm. That’s quite the double header of rugby action, we’re sure you’d agree.
England fans will have to wait until 4pm on Sunday to see their side take on Italy at Rome’s Stadio Olympico.
The second round of fixtures takes place the weekend after (10th & 11th February). With a break of a fortnight splitting up the action. February 23rd & 24th see the third round of matches. There’s then another break of a fortnight before round four.
The final round of games see England taking on Ireland at home, Wales hosting France and Scotland taking the flight to Italy. These matches are all on the afternoon of the 17th March.
Where’s the rugby action taking place?
Part of the fun of the Six Nations is that it is an unhosted event. So every year it’s fair, no one country has a home advantage.
England’s home matches against Wales and Ireland will take place at the 82,000 seater Twickenham Stadium. Wales play out of the Millennium in Cardiff, with Scotland’s matches take place at the legendary Murrayfield. Italy play out of Roma and Lazio’s stadium and France welcome opposition at the Stade de France in Paris and the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille.
Where can I watch it?
You can (try to) buy tickets to see any of the fifteen matches in the actual venues themselves, of course. Or you can stay at home at watch the action. The BBC will be showing comprehensive coverage of every try, scrum, kick and line out, so you can stick with them.
But if you don’t fancy spending £350 on a resale website for a ticket and the atmosphere created by just you and your cat isn’t up to much at home, then why not head out for the action?
We’ll be showing every second of every match at the 2018 Six Nations Championship down at your nearest Rileys. So why not head on down and join us, eh?
So… How does it all work?
It’s nice and simple. It’s a mini league. Round robin-style. After the final game, the nation at the top of the table wins! Win all five games and you get awarded the added accolade of having won ‘The Grand Slam’.
Which players should I watch out for?
Here are a few of our picks for players to look out for at this year’s Six Nations:
Steffan Evans, Wales & Scarlets – This Llanelli-born winger always catches the eye. When he’s not scoring tries, he’s setting them up. He’s rapid, elusive and takes on opposition players for fun. A real crowdpleaser.
Stuart Hogg, Scotland & Glasgow Warriors – 97 points in 55 caps speaks volumes. Full-back Hogg was thought to be out injured for the tournament but has returned and can always be relied upon. He’s lean, quick and devastating.
Robbie Henshaw, Ireland & Leinster – The 24 year-old centre is fast becoming one of the stars of Irish rugby and could well become a bit of a Lions legend as well.
Anthony Watson, England & Bath – 14 tries in 28 appearances is pretty darn good. And that’s just what Anthony Watson is. Pretty darn good. Anyone who saw him on the recent Lions tour will attest to that. And he’s only 23 years of age. Frightening.
Who’s going to win?
Hey, we’re no psychics. But much like Columbo or Quasimodo, we’ve got our hunches. England, of course, can’t be ignored. They’ve won the last two Six Nations and are pretty much unstoppable until Eddie Jones. They go in as favourites and we’d be daft to say anyone else… But what’s wrong with being a bit daft from time to time?
Alright, so maybe England will win the thing. But with just how competitive almost all of the nations are at the moment, we’d be very surprised if they did so with a Gland Slam. We reckon England will finish top. But only just.
But there’s still that hunch… And it comes with a bright orange wig attached to it. We have a funny feeling that Scotland might blow off the cobwebs and win the thing. It’s a 10/1 shot, although they do have injuries worries.
Mind you, plenty of Irish rugby fans could make the case that their side should go in as favourites. And France could surprise at 20/1. Their club sides are dominant in Europe right now.
Dammit. It really is hard to pick a winner. All we can say for certain is that it won’t be the Azzurri. Sorry, Italy.
So there it is. This year’s 2018 Six Nations is sure to produce more thrills n’ spills than you can shake a gumshield at. If you want some drinks, grub and atmosphere to go with your rugby, why not make a booking at Rileys for it? You won’t regret it.