The 2020 Six Nations ended up having a very strange feel to it, as the coronavirus pandemic hit right in the midst of the tournament. Matches were forced to be postponed, and in the end the Championship wasn’t played to a conclusion until October, some seven months after the initial finishing dates.
Amid this logistical turmoil, the tournament itself ended up being an extremely close-run thing, and very difficult thing. Eddie Jones’ England were not necessarily fancied ahead of the competition’s start, but they ended up winning it in the final round of fixtures, pipping France and Ireland who both had a chance of winning the trophy come the last day.
This year, everyone is hoping that the Six Nations can follow a more familiar schedule, and that the pandemic won’t force matches to be postponed as they were in 2020. And despite the gloom which is gripping most of the world at the moment, rugby fans everywhere are eagerly looking forward to the Six Nations as a balm to the frustration and fears over the current pandemic.
It promises to be a hugely intriguing tournament. It’s not really a surprise that England are the favourites in the latest Six Nations odds to win the competition, but France and Ireland are not far behind in the betting, nor can the challenges of Wales and Scotland be entirely discounted. It will be interesting to see how the tournament pans out, and whether or not any team can make a serious charge for the Grand Slam.
Wales were the last to achieve this feat, as they completed a clean sweep in the 2019 Six Nations, and Ireland did the same the year before. But last year’s tournament represented a much more close-run affair, and all throughout it was difficult to call a winner. England had always looked the more likely, and ultimately delivered the title, if not the coveted Grand Slam.
This year, it’s fair to say that if any team has serious claims on winning the Grand Slam, it probably is Eddie Jones’ men. England are riding the crest of a wave following their Six Nations triumph in October, and of course their victory in the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup, which replaced the usual Autumn Internationals last year. In doing so they recorded victories over Wales, Ireland and France – the three teams who are likely going to be their major rivals in the Six Nations this year.
Those wins will have inspired confidence, and Jones will be doing everything he can to get his side to pick up where they left off. But England’s Six Nations competitors will not go down without a fight. France are a young side full of hunger, and they’ll have been left reeling after just missing out on Six Nations glory last year, finishing second on mere points difference.
Ireland have made gradual strides under head coach Andy Farrell, and finishing third in the Autumn Nations Cup will have been enough to inspire confidence that Six Nations success is not beyond them. Wales, meanwhile, have some making up to do after finishing fifth in last year’s Six Nations, and a disappointing fifth in the Nations Cup.
Scotland too have become a much more solid outfit in recent times, and if any of these teams can build momentum in the upcoming Six Nations, then who’s to say a Grand Slam won’t be on the cards. But then again, all five have such quality that another tense, close, nervy Six Nations would not at all be a surprise. All we can do is tune in and see what happens!