The beginning of February signalled the commencement of the Six Nations, a rugby tournament contested between a selection of the highest ranked countries in the world. Amongst these are England, and with Eddie Jones’ side entering the tournament as the reigning champions, along with recording a pre-tournament run of 14 consecutive wins, there seemed to be a suggestion The Roses may retain their crown. Yet, the other home nations, along with France and Italy, are all ranked in the top 15, and ultimately with the tournament seemingly offering an opportunity for countries to attain silverware, whilst simultaneously providing experience for players to compete versus a smorgasbord of players from across Europe, all of the teams may be highly motivated to increase their trophy cabinet.
The tournament was originally contested between the four British rugby sides, in a competition aptly named the Home Nations. After a smattering of victories for all four countries, the inclusion of France in 1910 seemingly instigated a pioneering tournament for Europe, and this expansion ultimately laid the groundwork for the eventual inclusion of Italy in the tournament at the turn of the century. After sixteen years, the 2017 tournament sees a revamp of the points system, with bonuses being awarded for the first time, and these innovative changes seemingly continuously implemented may perhaps suggest the tournament is aiming to continue its reputation as one of the most significant, and recognised, in the world.
The opening fixture of the tournament was contested between France and England, with the latter hosting their opponents at Twickenham. With a winning streak of 14 wins already recorded, and the bragging rights of holding the Grand Slam, Triple Crown and Calcutta Cup, an England victory seemed to be the favoured result. Yet, France seemed to play at a high standard, seemingly motivated to add to their trophy cabinet, and a try from Slimani, along with penalties from Lopez, seemed to apply pressure on England in their desire for victory. Ultimately though, Eddie Jones’ side produced a comeback, with substitute Ben Te’o proving the difference between the two nations. In essence, victory enabled the home side to achieve a record 15 win-streak, which may suggest they possess players with quality, perhaps contributing in the quest to retain the Grand Slam.
Scotland hosted Ireland in the solitary all-home nations match-up, and with Ireland having won all of their maiden matches since 2012, it may have seemed they possessed the quality, and credentials, to continue this streak; yet, Scotland, seemingly spurred on by both the home crowd and the desire to compete for the trophy, concluded the game victorious, with Ireland on the receiving end of a 27-22 score line. Whilst the result may earn Scotland plaudits, the win may have been most notable for being Scotland’s first win in their opening encounter since 2006, and this, coupled with Stuart Hogg becoming Scotland’s highest try scorer in the Six Nations with his two tries, may suggest they boast the credentials to challenge any opposing team. In the other game, Italy competed versus Wales, and, after the home side took the lead via a try and a conversion before the interval, Wales ultimately seemed to showcase the reasoning as to why they have attained four Six Nations’ trophies, with Leigh Halfpenny’s man of the match performance, seemingly earnt due to his three conversions and four penalties, acting as the catalyst in Wales’ victory.
Ultimately, the tournament seems to showcase teams amongst the most accomplished in the world, and provide an opportunity for players to highlight the reasoning as to why they have been selected to represent their countries, perhaps the pinnacle of the sport. England’s record victory may suggest they possess the capabilities to retain the trophy for a consecutive year, and, considering they have competed versus a handful of the most accomplished global sides, utilising these experiences may enable them to become superiorly equipped to claim the crown. Yet, victory for Scotland, and seemingly competitive encounters in the other fixtures, may suggest all the competing teams boast an impressive repertoire, and perhaps suggests any team may achieve victories, leading to intriguing spectacles.
Which country seem to be superiorly equipped to attain the Six Nations trophy?