Six Nations preview: England to fall short as Grand Slam awaits Ireland

Six Nations preview: England to fall short as Grand Slam awaits Ireland
France and Ireland are flying high while England are in a transitional period
France and Ireland are flying high while England are in a transitional period
The coveted Six Nations Championship is due to start this coming weekend and there's plenty of talking points ahead of kick-off.

Wales and Ireland get us underway on Saturday 4th, so let's first take a look at both sides, discuss recent history and make some mild predictions.


The big news surrounding Wales is that Warren Gatland has returned to coach the team, much to fans' excitement.

However, despite boasting an impressive ceiling for athleticism, there are concerns over just how consistent this Welsh side can be at the Six Nations.

Wales will surely impress during the tournament, likely to hold off England for third, but winning it may be a step slightly beyond their capabilities right now.

Squad - 

Forwards: Rhys Carre, Wyn Jones, Gareth Thomas, Dewi Lake, Ken Owens, Bradley Roberts, Leon Brown, Tomas Francis, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Rhys Davies, Dafydd Jenkins, Alun Wyn Jones, Teddy Williams, Taulupe Faletau, Jac Morgan, Tommy Reffell, Justin Tipuric, Christ Tshiunza, Aaron Wainwright

Backs: Kieran Hardy, Rhys Webb, Tomos Williams, Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell, Owen Williams, Mason Grady, Joe Hawkins, George North, Nick Tompkins, Keiran Williams, Josh Adams, Alex Cuthbert, Rio Dyer, Leigh Halfpenny, Louis Rees-Zammit, Liam Williams


The Irish are the world's No. 1 ranked team after only losing twice in 2022 (to France and New Zealand away), and many have already concluded Andy Farrell's team will win the Grand Slam with both France and England to visit the Aviva Stadium this time around.

Ireland finished second to last year's eventual winners France - the world's No. 2 ranked team - who have added motivation to retain the crown as they host the World Cup later in the year.

Ireland have the best chance to upset the French, though, as long as they can get past a tricky first match against Wales at the Principality Stadium.

This will setup a mouthwatering encounter against France on February 11th to determine who the true favourites are this year.

Squad -

Forwards: Ryan Baird, Finlay Bealham, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Gavin Coombes, Caelan Doris, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Joe McCarthy, Peter O’Mahony, Tom O’Toole, Andrew Porter, Cian Prendergast, James Ryan, Dan Sheehan, Tom Stewart, Josh van der Flier

Backs: Bundee Aki, Ross Byrne, Craig Casey, Jack Crowley, Keith Earls, Jamison Gibson Park, Mack Hansen, Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour, James Lowe, Stuart McCloskey, Conor Murray, Jimmy O’Brien, Jamie Osborne, Garry Ringrose, Johnny Sexton, Jacob Stockdale


After Wales and Ireland battle, England are up against old rivals Scotland on the same day.

The English, like the Welsh, have new figures in their management set-up. Steve Borthwick and Kevin Sinfield have the task of turning a faltering ship around, with Eddie Jones' reign ending on a sour note.

A more organised team could perform well at the Six Nations, but expectations should certainly be tempered. When it's all said and done, England are likely to fight Wales for third - at best - as they focus on a much-improved showing at the World Cup in the autumn.

Squad -

Forwards: Ollie Chessum, Dan Cole, Ben Curry, Alex Dombrandt, Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Joe Heyes, Jonny Hill, Nick Isiekwe, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, George McGuigan, Bevan Rodd, Sam Simmonds, Kyle Sinckler, Mako Vunipola, Jack Walker, Jack Willis

Backs: Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, Tommy Freeman, Ollie Hassell-Collins, Guy Porter, Max Malins, Joe Marchant, Alex Mitchell, Cadan Murley, Henry Slade, Fin Smith, Marcus Smith, Freddie Steward, Manu Tuilagi, Jack van Poortvliet, Ben Youngs


Hopes are not high for the inconsistent Scots, winners of the 2015 Wooden Spoon, but the team should be able to avoid embarrassment at the Six Nations this year.

Injuries to the squad could prove decisive, with doubts over whether Zander Fagerson and Hamish Watson will join Darcy Graham, Scott Cummings and Rory Darge on the sidelines.

Scotland start their tournament off with a tough face-off against England, which could be a fair contest, but the English should claim victory.

It remains to be seen how well the Scots will perform against the more favourable nations, but they should at least out-perform the lowly Italians.

Squad -

Forwards: Ewan Ashman, Josh Bayliss, Simon Berghan, Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown, Dave Cherry, Andy Christie, Luke Crosbie, Jack Dempsey, Matt Fagerson, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, Cameron Henderson, WP Nel, Jamie Ritchie, Pierre Schoeman, Javan Sebastian, Sam Skinner, Rory Sutherland, George Turner, Hamish Watson

Backs: Chris Harris, Ben Healy, Stuart Hogg, George Horne, Huw Jones, Blair Kinghorn, Sean Maitland, Ruaridh McConnochie, Stafford McDowell, Ali Price, Cameron Redpath, Finn Russell, Ollie Smith, Kyle Steyn, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe, Ben White


The holders start their title defence against Italy on Sunday 5th, which should set the tone for both sides in the tournament as well as a preview to their World Cup clash later this year.

It will provide the French with a prime opportunity to send a message to Ireland and Wales, sides much more up to the task of challenging this year.

France should be expected to push them both all the way.

Squad -

Forwards: Gregory Alldritt, Uini Atonio, Cyril Baille, Gaetan Barlot, Teddy Baubigny, Alexandre Becognee, Paul Boudehent, Yacouba Camara, Bastien Chalureau, Dylan Cretin, Francois Cros, Sipili Falatea, Thibaud Flament, Mohamed Haouas, Anthony Jelonch, Thomas Jolmes, Thomas Lavault, Sekou Macalou, Julien Marchand, Charles Ollivon, Dany Priso, Romain Taofifenua, Reda Wardi, Paul Willemse

Backs: Pierre-Louis Barassi, Louis Bielle-Biarrey, Romain Buros, Leo Coly, Julien Delbouis, Ethan Dumortier, Antoine Dupont, Gael Fickou, Emilien Gailleton, Antoine Hastoy, Matthieu Jalibert, Melvyn Jaminet, Nolann Le Garrec, Matthis Lebel, Yoram Moefana, Romain Ntamack, Damian Penaud, Thomas Ramos


The Italians are in line for their eighth consecutive Wooden Spoon, with rumours rumbling that they could soon be replaced by another country at the Six Nations.

Italy's best performance at the championships was a decade ago, in 2013, when they claimed the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy over France.

There is little chance of a repeat this year, so the Italians best hope may be to put in a performance to protect their reputation amid reports South Africa could replace them by 2025.

Squad -

Forwards: Pietro Ceccarelli, Simone Ferrari, Danilo Fischetti, Matteo Nocera, Marco Riccioni, Luca Rizzoli, Mirco Spagnolo, Federico Zani, Luca Bigi, Marco Manfredi, Giacomo Nicotera, Niccolo Cannon, Marco Fuser, Federico Ruzza, Andrea Zambonin, Lorenzo Cannon, Michele Lamaro, Sebastian Negri, Giovanni Pettinelli, Jake Polledri, Manuel Zuliani

Backs: Alessandro Garbisi, Stephen Varney, Alessandro Fusco, Tommaso Allan, Giacomo Da Re, Juan Ignacio Brex, Enrico Lucchin, Tommaso Menoncello, Luca Morisi, Pierre Bruno, Ange Capuozzo, Matteo Minozzi, Edoardo Padovani