Every year, half a dozen of the northern hemisphere’s top rugby-playing countries battle it out to determine who reigns supreme. 2019’s Six Nations Championship is something of a landmark year for the competition, marking as it does its 125th edition (in all forms) and the 20th time it’s officially been ‘The Six Nations’.
Ireland will go into it as the reigning Grand Slam champions and so start as favourites. But England and Wales will fancy their chances of glory too. Scotland, France and Italy aren’t likely to win the top prize, but each are more than capable of springing a surprise and having their say.
This year’s Six Nations starts on Friday evening and will run until Saturday the 16th of March. Before it all gets going though, we thought we’d bring you a quick guide to everything you need to know about the 2019 competition…
Who’s taking part?
For the past two decades the competition has invited the same six countries to take part: England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, France and Italy. Pre-21st century it was merely the ‘Five Nations’ and the Italians didn’t get the call. Eight years previous and the French were ignored. Will there ever be a seventh nation involved? Perhaps. But until then, it’s just the usual suspects competing.
When’s it all happening?
There are five rounds of action, taking place over five different weekends from this weekend until mid-March. Round One kicks off with France against Wales at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, just outside Paris. Kick off is Friday 1st February at 8pm. The next day sees Italy travel to Murrayfield to take on the Scottish at 2.15pm. After that? On the same Saturday, perhaps the biggest game of the entire tournament – Ireland vs. England. The action from Dublin starts at 4.45pm.
The next round of matches take place the week after, with a fortnight separating Round Two from Round Three. There’s another two week break before the fourth round and then a week until the final round determines who finishes where.
Okay, so where can I watch all the action?
Broadcast rights for the 2019 Six Nations are to be shared out equally between the BBC and ITV. If you’re away from a TV, you can follow the action live on both network’s online streaming services.
Because there’s no Sky or BT subscription needed, you can pretty much watch all the international rugby action from anywhere you like. At home, down the pub, on your phone in a Lidl car park – anywhere. But for the best atmosphere, well, we’d recommend you get yourself down to your nearest Rileys.
How exactly does it work?
It couldn’t be simpler. This isn’t a knockout competition, it’s a miniature league set-up. Each country plays each other once – home or away (there are no ‘host nations’). After the five rounds of ties, whoever is top of the table wins! It’s as easy as that. The only other thing of note here is that should the winning team win every single game, they also win ‘The Grand Slam’. Ireland will be hoping to finish this year’s Six Nations as back-to-back Grand Slam champions.
What players should I keep an eye out for?
They’ll be well over 200 players hoping to get games in the 2019 Six Nations, all of them excellent rugby players. But who is likely to stand out from the crowd and really make a a name for themself this year? Well, it’s not easy just picking out a few, but here are a trio of top players we reckon could well have a huge impact on the tournament…
Jacob Stockdale (Ireland): This guy could well be the most threatening offensive winger currently playing rugby in the northern hemisphere. If Ireland are going to score tries – and they are – Jacob Stockdale’s going to be scoring the majority of them.
Billy Vunipola (England): England have missed Billy Vunipola’s raw power during his various injury layoffs. He seems to have overcome them – for now – and could make a major impact here if his fractured arm doesn’t hold him back.
Stuart Hogg (Scotland): The Glasgow Warriors full-back has been very vocal this week about Scotland’s chances and we fully expect the 26 year-old to embrace the tournament like he’ll be embracing his new side Exeter Chiefs this year… Full on.
Who’s gonna win the Six Nations, then???
Picking a winner in the Six Nations is surprisingly tricky. Even when you factor in that neither Italy or Scotland have ever even come close to winning one. France are nearly a decade without the honour too. So nowadays the three only really likely winners are England, Wales or Ireland.
Wales, at 5/1, are the outside bet. Although Warren Gatland’s side do go into the thing having beaten Australia, South Africa and Scotland in their autumn internationals, so Welsh fans are fairly buoyant.
Had England have won last year’s tournament, Eddie Jones would have made it three in a row. The English can get back to winning ways here at 3/1, but injury concerns may just mean having to settle for second spot (should they pip Wales to it). It could all depend on the result in the first game against Ireland…
And that brings us onto the favourites. At no better than Evens, it’s not a hugely brave shout, granted. But we think Joe Schmidt will take the Irish to glory. They were excellent last year and have shown no signs of slowing down since then. The best bet could well be for Ireland to win the Grand Slam at 5/2.
Whatever happens, it’s bound to be another thrilling 15 games of bone-rattling rugby action. We’ll see you down Rileys for it!