by Frank Schnittger
Sun Jan 28th, 2018 at 01:02:26 PM EST
The 6 Nations rugby Championship starts next week-end is looking more open than ever this year, with England, the champions for the past two years and World no. 2 ranked side suffering a spate of injuries to key players. Do they have the strength in depth to cope? It could be some showdown against Ireland on St. Paddy's day!
France have been a disaster area in recent years but are never easy to beat in Paris and may get a "new coach bounce" under Brunel. They have some very exciting young players and are also very physical - they ruined Ireland's chances at the last World Cup by injuring so many of our top players.
Conor O'Shea's Italy may benefit from some glimpses of form from Treviso and Zebre and the evergreen Parisse, but do they really have the resources to be competitive? One upset win at best, would be my guess.
Wales have had their injury problems too but are never easy to beat. LLanelli Scarlets are the reigning Pro14 champions and have become the first Welsh side to qualify for the quarter finals of the European Cup in years. They seem to fancy their chances (as always!)
Gregor Townsend has Scotland playing some really attractive rugby and they beat Australia and gave the All Blacks a run for their money recently. But is their pack, depleted by injuries, strong enough to give them the front foot possession they need? Disregard them at your peril.
Ireland never seem to be comfortable in the role of favourites and it only takes one below par performance to ruin your chances. We look to have the strength in depth to cope with the loss of O'Brien, Heaslip, Jackson, Payne, and Ruddock, the exile of Donncha Ryan and Zebo, and the ageing Bowe and Trimble; but beating both France and England away is a big ask.
My prediction? Ireland to win the Championship, but perhaps not the grand slam. It's really hard to get it right all the time... but if anyone can do it, perhaps Joe Schmidt can.