Scotty Donaldson looks at the upcoming Six Nations Rugby Championship and who you should look out for! Who do you think will win?
The RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship 2012 starts next week and it will be interesting to see how teams kick on after the Rugby World Cup 2011.
The New Zealand TAB has the following odds which indicate that France are favourites with Wales, England and Ireland the main threats.
The implications for www.testrugby.com managers suggest that it is best to go for France players since they start with two home matches against bottom ranked Italy and the fourth ranked Ireland team. They then play away to Scotland. So back the French to hopefully win their first three games well, although it depends whether Dr Jekyl or Mr Hyde shows up.
Six Nations Rugby Championships 2012 Odds
1 France 2.70
2 Wales 3.30
3 England 4.50
4 Ireland 6.00
5 Scotland 25.00
6 Italy 200.00
France got to the Rugby World Cup 2011 final without their coach's help and so you would think they should be able to win this tournament without Marc Lievremont.
Wales had an exciting young team at the Rugby World Cup, but look set to be missing some key players for their Six Nations 2012 campaign. They showed during the Rugby World Cup that they had depth, but I wonder if they have enough to cover for players like Gethin Jenkins, Rhys Priestland, Shane Williams, Alun Wyn Jones and Luke Charteris.
England and Ireland need to change their teams if they are to be competitive. Both had their moments at the Rugby World Cup, but have too many older players who won't be around in four years. It is time to rebuild!
Scotland were disappointing at the Rugby World Cup and almost lost to Romania. They have a new captain in Ross Ford and a solid forward pack, but don't have enough firepower out wide.
Italy are favourites for the wooden spoon. They do have players capable of plenty of testrugby.com points because they have to make so many tackles.
Players to watch for assuming they are selected to play;
France - Loose forwards Thierry Dusautoir, Imanol Harinordoquy and Julien Bonnaire will be excellent value if they can repeat their Rugby World Cup 2011 final form. Based on the Rugby World Cup 2011 game William Servat and Vincent Clerc were the other top scoring France players.
Wales - Toby Faletau plays a style conducive to scoring plenty of points. Wales had some other high scoring players, but their locks Wyn Jones and Charteris will be sorely missed and if they do play will be worth the purchase. Other good point scoring players based on the Rugby World Cup 2011 include George North, Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts, Johnathon Davies, Sam Warburton, Huw Bennet and Mike Phillips. Wales play a style which tends to score more testrugby.com points than most other teams.
England - England didn't really troube the scorers at the Rugby World Cup 2011, but some players who seemed to score decently well were Manu Tuilagi, Ben Foden, Chris Ashton and James Haskell. Tuilagi will miss the Scotland game first up. It will be interesting to see how coach Stuart Lancaster. Plenty will depend on selections for them with South African Brad Barritt and if Toby Flood is fit.
Ireland - Declan Kidney will have to do without Brian O'Driscoll this year and he will be a major loss for Ireland. At the Rugby World Cup the best Ireland players were winger Keith Earls, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip, Robert Kearney and Rory Best.
Scotland needs major improvements if they are to be competitive in the Six Nations. Their best players during a disappointing Rugby World Cup 2011 campaign was Sean Lamont while Richie Gray was great value and Ross Ford will get plenty of game time as captain and hooker. This season could be a chance for youngster Duncan Weir.
Italian captain Sergio Parisse was by far the best Italy had to offer at the Rugby World Cup 2011. Based on testrugby.com points in New Zealand Leonardo Ghiraldini and Alessandro Zanni.
It is difficult to know what has happened to all of the great fly halves in the world, many of whom used to hail from the Northern Hemisphere. It seems that the next four years will see the new breed of fly halves take over from the greats of the past, but it will be interesting to see which of the new batch of players will sink or swim?
Thierry Dusautoir (captain)
Alberto de Marchi
Andrea Lo Cicero
Cornelius van Zyl
Nick De Luca
Who do you think will win the Six Nations 2012? Which players should we watch out for?
Have your say!