With the start of the 2024 Six Nations Championship less than 2 weeks away, rugby fans worldwide gear up to witness yet another thrilling tournament that will see Ireland vying to protect the title as the current champions of the Six Nations. Taking a look at each of the contenders, we’ll dive into the strengths, weaknesses, and potential outcomes providing just a small glimpse of the action we anticipate to come in the next few weeks.
The current champions, Ireland, led by Andy Farrell present a strong forward-style game with impressive scrummaging brought by the likes of props Andrew Porter and Tadhg Furlong. While also boasting an aggressively defensive yet strategic game bringing in quality talent with centres Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw.
Succeeding Johnny Sexton as captain, is Peter O’Mahony after a successful recovery from injury. It is a crucial role that sees O’Mahony taking on the armband in hopes of leading them to victory.
Worry arises as Farrell goes into the tournament with no uncapped players, which raises the question ‘Will Ireland repeat previous mistakes by not bringing in fresh talent?’. Nevertheless, there seems to be faith in this current squad and ultimately the physicality of their forward lineup will prove to be crucial in their pursuit of Six Nations glory.
England embark on their Six Nations campaign on February 3 as Jamie George has been confirmed as the next England captain. It seems coach Steve Borthwick has taken a different approach than Ireland in terms of squad selection by taking the opportunity to develop new talent like Oscar Beard and Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, who are uncapped as of now.
Borthwick also incorporates seasoned players such as Danny Care to provide stability at scrum half. Traditionally, England utilises a tactical defence and brings forward a swift, hostile game early on in attempts to put down a lead and while their style of play has changed in recent years, they present themselves as a balanced team currently.
Injuries could be a setback for England as they go into this tournament without key figures Manu Tuilagi and Tom Curry which could see a different tactic being taken to counteract these missing players.
Grégory Alldritt will take over the role of French captain as Antoine Dupont, who is set to miss this year’s championship through his rugby sevens involvement, will prove a noticeable absentee for the French. Galthie’s squad offers a fortified team with new players Emmanuel Meafou, Esteban Abadie and Matthias Halagahu, and established players like Uini Atonio.
The scrum-half position that Dupont has left unoccupied will be filled by Maxime Lucu and spirited young talent Nolann Le Garrec. France are set to make a comeback from facing disappointment in their Rugby World Cup campaign.
Another new captain is named for Warren Gatland’s Wales side as Dafydd Jenkins becomes the second youngest player to lead the squad. Wales will attempt to rebuild after the departure of some key players like Alun Wyn and Justin Tipuric having retired from international rugby and injury which sees Dewi Lake and Jac Morgan missing.
Despite this, there is hope amongst the squad as we see a mix of young and veteran talent with five uncapped players included in the 34-man squad.
Gregor Townsend has recruited former England prop Alec Hepburn into his squad for the tournament. Hepburn qualifies through his father who is Scottish-born. Fellow prop Will Hurd and winger Arron Reed are amongst those who anticipate their first cap for Scotland ahead of the competition.
The remaining team is mostly unchanged with familiar faces such as Grant Gilchrist in the second row, Jack Dempsey, Matt Fagerson and Jamie Ritchie named amongst the forwards.
Included in the list of backs are Duhan van der Merwe, Darcy Graham and Kyle Rowe. Townsend’s squad are striving to finish higher after an admirable third-place finish in last year’s competition.
Italy’s new coach Gonzalo Quesada has brought in five fresh faces to be a part of the squad for this year’s Six Nations. Naming Mirco Spagnolo, Alessandro Izekor, Ross Vintcent, Matteo Nocera and Luca Rizzoli in the team. Experienced talent in the likes of Pietro Ceccarelli and Danilo Fischetti make an appearance.
Unfortunately, lock Dino Lamb appears to be missing after suffering an injury. Italy must prove themselves this time around, as last campaign saw them face five straight defeats and ultimately finish in last place.
The Six Nations 2024 tournament promises to deliver moments of brilliance, heart-stopping action, and unpredictable outcomes. The teams, armed with strategies and individual brilliance, are set to engage in a high-stakes battle for supremacy.
Whether it’s the seasoned giants or the underdog contenders, the tournament promises to be a riveting display of skill and strategy. Only time will reveal which nation will emerge victorious and etch its name into the annals of Six Nations history.
Rachel Ugoiwa – Sports Writer