Who Is Most Likely To Win The World Cup Rugby – Six Nations Preview 2015

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Rugby – Six Nations Preview 2015

With the first game and certainly the plum game of the weekend taking place at the Millennium Stadium tonight, here are some thoughts on this year’s six nations championship.

Ireland is probably the favourite, with England close behind. Unfortunately, due to the lack of depth, Ireland are unlikely to meet the bookies’ enthusiastic evaluation. Despite a great run of results in the autumn internationals, the Irish start the tournament without Heaslip, Healy and Sexton, all absolutely vital to their cause. That shouldn’t bother them much against Italy, even playing away from home but Sexton’s ongoing problems with concussion must be a huge concern, not only for this tournament but for the World Cup as well. The lack of class substitutes is highlighted by the selection, for this game, of loose forward O’Brien, who has played almost no rugby since his long-term injury. Kearney, Bowe and Zebo make a strong back three, the midfield combination in the O’Driscoll/D’Arcy era is useful, O’Connell, O’Mahony, O’Brien and Best are all quality forwards worldwide but Ireland without Sexton is at least 20% less effective.

England should probably be the favorites of the six nations, even though they are hit particularly hard by injuries. Farrell, Tuilagi, Morgan, Lawes, Wilson, Launchbury, Parling, Barritt, Eastmond and Tom Wood are all missing for the visit to Wales. With a stable combination, Wales will expect to win this game but an upset will be a big boost for England and make them firm favorites for the title. None of the other teams have anything like the resources of the English. Even missing their top three locks for this game, they are able to put a solid second row on the field. The tight ends continue to be significant weapons for them and there are still quality supporters like Mike Brown. On the outside, especially against Wales, weaknesses could be exploited if the Welsh are bold enough to ensure that North and Cuthbert get the ball. As the tournament progresses, England will need to add aspects to their play outside of the dominance of the forwards. In the World Cup, against the southern hemisphere teams, the forwards will not be enough.

On paper, Wales look a good team but it is doubtful whether they have the kind of mental strength of the great sides of the seventies. With the addition of Webb as a winger, the backline looks complete and very dangerous. Biggar has to be the bowler in the world cup and outside of it he has a great three quarters. The loose trio of Lydiate, Warburton and Faletau are first class but much will depend on the front five. If they can match fire for fire against the old enemy tonight, Wales should be feeling very satisfied.

The hardest team in world rugby to analyze has always been the French. So unpredictable and such a team of moods, one never knows what to expect from the French. Two South Africans, Kockott and Spedding, make their debuts tomorrow and the Kockott/Lopez combination is the 14th half-back pairing of the Saint Andre era. After missing the whole of the 2014 campaign, Dusautoir is back and forms a useful back three in the scrum. Bastareaud and Fofana are a dangerous center pairing and it is very fast. France need to win at home against Scotland but whatever happens, we will probably be none the wiser as to the possibilities for the French in the future.

Scotland boast their best balanced team for many years. The tight five is impressive with Murray, Ford and Dickinson in the front row, backed up by the very large Gray brothers. Unusually for the Scots, they have pace and size on the wings in Visser and Seymour and the elusive Hogg at the back. However, once the injuries come in, the lack of depth will be highlighted. As always, they will play close to their potential.

Italy will probably be the whipping boys of the tournament. Only the acclaimed sergio Parisse and the aging Castrogiovanni are world class. They will probably appear in the pack but are likely, as always, to find the toughness at the back, where they don’t have enough pace, size or skill to trouble the best.

It’s a fairly open tournament this year and there are probably four sides that can win it.

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