Article: The Original Rugby Championship - Six Nations 2016



  • Oh yes - that moment you've all been dreading has finally arrived.It's that time of year again where you have to put up with occasional NH posters like myself talking about sub-standard kick-infested rugby played on sodden, muddy pitches in front of delirious, frog-munching, haggis-eating, spud-chewing, leek-wearing, pasta-tossing, red-rose tinted fans. All in the name of having some craic, avoiding wooden spoons, taking Triple Crowns, Millennium Trophies, Garibaldi trophy's Calcutta Cups, and, of course, the venerable Championship title, or whisper it, possibly a Grand Slam.There's Ireland, having been hammered out of the European Cup knockout stages for the first time in 18 years, going for an historic third in a row Championship.There's Wales, pipped on the last day of the 2015 tournament, nearly made it in the RWC quarter-finals, with Gatland looking to add to the NH notches on his belt.There's a Vern Cotter-revived Scotland, looking to start their Championship with a bang in the oldest test rivalry - Calcutta Cup - against the regular foe - in Murrayfield.Guy Noves, multiple winner of T14 titles, heading up a new-look France minus Bastearaud, and possibly looking to improve on where they've been, who knows?Brunel as the competition's regular Don Quixote, heads into his last season as Italy tilt for another scalp, or possibly two.And the bould Eddie Jones, or EJ, as he is already affectionately known amongst the knowing Twickenham faithful, ready to take the Championship by storm and win England their first Grand Slam since 2003. And then the world. Meanwhile, there's Scotland first-up.....The bookmakers have spoken, and EJ is in the hot seat with England installed as 7/4 favourites, followed by Ireland and Wales on 11/4. France are on at 9/2.England are best on the Grand Slam at 4/1 - worth a punt?Edit: I shouldn't forget that the Women's 6 Nations and the U20's Six Nations also happens at the same time, so comments on these are also welcome.Last year's 6N champions:Women's - IrelandU20s - England.The line-up of men's matches, starting on 6 February, goes like this:Round 106/02/2016 14:25France v Italy06/02/2016 16:50Scotland v EnglandMurrayfield07/02/2016 15:00Ireland v WalesLansdowne RoadRound 213/02/2016 14:25France v IrelandStade de France16:50Wales v ScotlandPrincipality Stadium14/02/2016 14:00Italy v EnglandStadio OlimpicoRound 326/02/2016 20:05Wales v FrancePrincipality Stadium27/02/2016 14:25Italy v ScotlandStadio Olimpico27/02/2016 16:50England v IrelandTwickenham StadiumRound 412/03/201613:30Ireland v ItalyLansdowne Road12/03/2016 16:00England v WalesTwickenham Stadium13/03/2016 15:00Scotland v FranceMurrayfieldRound 519/03/2016 14:30Wales v ItalyPrincipality Stadium19/03/2016 17:00Ireland v ScotlandLansdowne Road19/03/2016 20:00France v EnglandStade de FranceComment as you like. Likely squads, team sheets, injury woes, play spot-the-kiwi, insightful predictions, and general blather can all be accommodated here.

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  • Don't you mean the Rugby World Cup plate competition? 
     
    (writing this a complete wind-up, but then I checked and if you swap Italy/Japan, it's exactly what it is)



  • C'mon Scotland, THIS is the year!!!!!



  • what channel is it on in Aus this year fullas?



  • For Aus I think it's on Bein Sports this year which is instead of Setanta I think?



  • Now that BOD has retired I think I'm ready for Ireland to be my second team again. Go the Celts!!!



  • For Aus I think it's on Bein Sports this year which is instead of Setanta I think?

    well, i guess I'm not watching it this year either. 
     
    I think there are terribly timed replays on ESPN



  • C'mon Scotland, THIS is the year!!!!!

    To win a game?



  • To win a game?
    To win all their games, they're gonna do the Grand Slam, you read it here first.



  • Looking very forward to this.  I know the quality is not always as good as the 4N, but the centuries-old rivalries between the countries etc give it something extra.  However, I think from a rugby point of view also an interesting tournament this year
     
    ?Can Scotland actually achieve something (which basically means finishing 4th or better for them, doing more than beating Italy, winning more than 1 game)
    ?How will France and England do under new coaches
    ?How good a coach is Schmidt really - he has lost his stalwart O'Connell, has a number of injuries, and the RWC fell apart vs Argentina
     
    As always, every team (perhaps with the exception of Italy) has at least 1 Kiwi in their ranks, so a little of the local feel there too.



  • England 23-man squad v Scotland
     
    M Brown (Harlequins), A Goode (Saracens), J Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), A Watson (Bath), J Joseph (Bath), O Devoto (Bath), O Farrell (Saracens), G Ford (Bath), D Care (Harlequins), B Youngs (Leicester), J George (Saracens), D Hartley (Northampton, captain), J Marler (Harlequins), M Vunipola (Saracens), D Cole (Leicester), P Hill (Northampton), G Kruis (Saracens), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton), C Robshaw (Harlequins), J Haskell (Wasps), J Clifford (Harlequins), B Vunipola (Saracens).
     
    Players released J Beaumont (Sale Sharks), L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), M Itoje (Saracens), M Kvesic (Gloucester), M Mullan (Wasps), H Thomas (Bath), E Daly (Wasps), S Hill (Exeter Chiefs), S Rokoduguni (Bath), M Yarde (Harlequins).



  • "Principality Stadium"? Since when?
    Will try and follow, but likely won't too closely, old age and family tend to restrict my rugby watching nowadays. But am interested this far out in potential 2017 Lions. So it's piqued my interest a touch more than normal.



  • For Aus I think it's on Bein Sports this year which is instead of Setanta I think?

    Well that's another reason I won't watch it.



  • Looking at that England squad, we'd better wrap Jospeh up in cotton wool as he's the only 13 option. We have four blokes covering 10+12 (Ford, Farrell, Devoto and Goode), Three covering 15 (Brown, Watson and Goode). Four covering 11/14 (Nowell (injured), Watson, Brown and Joseph), but if Joseph goes down we're bollocked. I would have liked to see Daly there instead of either Goode or Devoto, purely for a what if scenario if nothing else.
     
    Eddy for all his talk about an out and out 7 has ditched the only out and out 7 in the squad - very disappointing as it seems to point to more attritional play. So in the back row we have three 6s and an 8 plus Lawes who can cover 6 at a pinch. I get that Eddy thinks we can turn Clifford into a 7 but that doesn't happen overnight.
     
    I have to say I'm slightly underwhelmed.



  • Looking at that England squad, we'd better wrap Jospeh up in cotton wool as he's the only 13 option. We have four blokes covering 10+12 (Ford, Farrell, Devoto and Goode), Three covering 15 (Brown, Watson and Goode). Four covering 11/14 (Nowell (injured), Watson, Brown and Joseph), but if Joseph goes down we're bollocked. I would have liked to see Daly there instead of either Goode or Devoto, purely for a what if scenario if nothing else.
    Eddy for all his talk about an out and out 7 has ditched the only out and out 7 in the squad - very disappointing as it seems to point to more attritional play. So in the back row we have three 6s and an 8 plus Lawes who can cover 6 at a pinch. I get that Eddy thinks we can turn Clifford into a 7 but that doesn't happen overnight.
    I have to say I'm slightly underwhelmed.Agreed. I know there's more to openside play than just jackaling, but given what happened against Australia in the world cup you would have though it would be an issue Eddie would address more boldly.
    Kvesic leads the premiership with 15 steals in 12 games played. Haskell and Robshaw have 4, Clifford 3.



  • Simon, did you read Austin Healey's interview re the selections? Echo's what we're thinking. Writing in the Torygraph:-
     
    I really wanted to be excited by his first squad, but, like many, I have been left underwhelmed. These things take time of course, but I thought Eddie would go for it from the off.

    I would rather lose at Murrayfield seeing new blood, new style and a new-looking team than the same old safe options.

    Indeed he was quick to point out that many of the issues that dogged Stuart Lancaster at both inside centre and the back row remain.

    The overall balance of the midfield also looks wrong to me if they go with the George Ford and Owen Farrell combination. We have seen them play together before and it did not work…
    If they go with Chris Robshaw, Haskell and Billy Vunipola where is your third line-out jumper?
    Haskell can barely jump, you would need a couple of forklifts to get Vunipola off the ground and, while Robshaw can be lifted, he is not going to get that high.



  • If they go with Chris Robshaw, Haskell and Billy Vunipola where is your third line-out jumper?
     
    Haskell can barely jump, you would need a couple of forklifts to get Vunipola off the ground and, while Robshaw can be lifted, he is not going to get that high.

    That looks like the Wallabies, but slow. Horribly unbalanced and giving away at other key facets of the game.
     
    Dare I say it, his coaching career was made on the back of players like Finegan, Gregan, Larkham, Mortlock, George Smith and Joe Roff. Certainly not a bad coterie to base a gameplan around.



  • I'm hoping that Eddie is just going with experience as a stopgap while he gets to know the players and brings the young blood through.
    But I can't help feeling that Itoje and Kvesic would be a better-balanced and more dynamic partnership on the flanks than Haskell and Robshaw, Devoto is a more varied 12 who would make more room for his outsides than Farrell, and George is a better ball-carrier with a more established set-piece partnership with Vunipola and Kruis than Hartley.



  • Having said all that, I think Healey is a bit off the mark with the lineout. Robshaw and Haskell are decent enough jumpers - not true specialists like Croft, Wood or Itoje, but they'll do a job.



  • Itoje having a stormer of a second half for Saracens vs Bath. Playing at lock but at 195cm and mobile with it, he looks like a blindside to me. Great carrying, big tackling, enormous work rate, 10 turnovers won this season and an genuine lineout option. Eddie has to look at him vs Italy, surely?



  • To win all their games, they're gonna do the Grand Slam, you read it here first.

    Ha ha



  • Keeping this updated as Round 1 draws near.
     
    Ireland squad for first two rounds against Wales (h) and France (a) was named.  Rory Best appointed by Schmidt as captain, following O'Connell's retirement from test rugby.
     
    Schmidt has included four uncapped players in the squad for the first two rounds - Ulster's Stuart McCloskey (12), Connacht's Ultan Dillane (lock), Munster's newly residency- qualified backrower from SA, CJ Stander, and Leinster's newbie openside, Josh van der Flier.  
     
    Bowe, Henderson, Tuohy, and O'Mahony unavailable due to long-term injury.  Ross, Healy and Henry are recovering from injury but not available for the first two rounds.
     
    Backs (16) -
    Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster)Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster)Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht)Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster)David Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster)Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster)Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster)Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht)

    Luke Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster)Stuart McCloskey (Ballynahinch/Ulster) *Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)Jared Payne (Ulster)Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster)Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary's College/Leinster)Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster)Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster)Forwards (19) -Finlay Balham (Connacht) *
    Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) (capt)Sean Cronin (St. Mary's College/Leinster)James Cronin (Dolphin/Munster)Ultan Dillane (Corinthians/Connacht)*Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster)Jamie Heaslip (Dublin University/Leinster) (vice-capt)Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster)Mike McCarthy (Lansdowne/Leinster)Jack McGrath (St. Mary's College/Leinster)Martin Moore (Lansdowne/Leinster)Sean O'Brien (UCD/Leinster)Tommy O'Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster)Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary's College/Leinster)Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster)CJ Stander (Munster) *Richardt Strauss (Old Wesley/Leinster)Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster)Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) *Nathan White (Connacht)



  • To win all their games, they're gonna do the Grand Slam, you read it here first.

    Don't normally agree with Barnes, but spot on here
     
    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/sport/rugbyunion/article4679276.ece

    Scotland favourites? Leave it out Eddie Jones, no one’s fooled
    

    Stuart Barnes
    Published at 12:01AM, February 1 2016

    The honeymoon is over for Eddie Jones. It’s time to take issue with the crazy comments that the roguish Australian with the winning smile has been making in the build up to Saturday’s Calcutta Cup match. Scotland, contrary to what Jones says, are not favourites. Nor should they be.
     
    The bookmakers make England 9-4 to win the game. Four pounds back for every nine you invest if you back England at these prohibitive odds. There is a reason for the odds. Scotland have lost their past six games against England. They have drawn one and lost seven of the past eight. Scotland do not often beat England.
     
    In fact Scotland do not win many RBS Six Nations games. In the 2011-15 World Cup cycle Scotland won three of their 20 fixtures. Favourites? You must be joking, Eddie. And there is quite a contrast with England’s Six Nations record where Jones likes to talk about England being rated fourth in recent times. In the immediate past — the Stuart Lancaster era — England won 16 out of 20 games. Why else are Scotland favourites? The answer is, of course, the World Cup. England’s head coach correctly points out that Scotland made it out of the pool stage whereas England did not. He does not remind people that England’s pool had Wales and Australia swimming around shark-like in the deep end.
     
    Scotland lost 34-16 to South Africa, the one top-tier team and scraped through after beating Samoa 36-33 in their final pool match. These are neither results nor performances to merit favouritism for Scotland. To nail his claim, Jones plays the narrowness of the quarter-final defeat by Australia as his trump. After all, they smashed England only a fortnight earlier didn’t they?
     
    Australia were superb that day against England. They toughed out victory against Wales then found it impossible to maintain their standards in a quarter-final they expected to win. Of Scotland’s three tries, one was a charge down, another an intercept. There was no David Pocock either and in the World Cup, Australia without Pocock were an altogether weaker team. That is not to denigrate the undoubted improvement in the quality of Scottish performances, but it is to gently remind English fans that Jones should not be allowed to get hold of reality and spin it until the facts fall over in a dizzy, distorted heap.
     
    Vern Cotter, Scotland’s coach, is the strong, silent Kiwi type and prefers action to words but even he made the point that Jones was clearly trying to lift the psychological pressure from himself. We were treated to Jones explaining how his team had only six training sessions together (the stability of Scotland was the silent given). He went as far as to describe the pressure on Scotland to perform as “enormous”. “The bookies might have us as favourites but Scotland has to be.” What a load of nonsense.
     
    Even if England opt for the most radical changes and suddenly announce half a dozen debutants, England would shade favouritism in Edinburgh. The gulf in size between these rugby nations is vast. Scotland have two professional clubs, while England have 12 in the top flight alone and you may have noticed that the English clubs are playing some pretty decent rugby while Glasgow Warriors, the Guinness PRO12 champions, are struggling.
     
    The club/country performance is no guarantee of international excellence; consider the disparity between Wales as a European rugby force, but a higher tempo English club game cannot but help the national side. In Lancaster’s four years he never went into a Six Nations with the clubs in such vibrant form.
     
    Lancaster lost his job for failing to escape the World Cup pool stage. Selection crumbled under pressure and Ian Ritchie, the RFU chief executive, went to the vastly experienced Jones to ensure that this wouldn’t happen again. So the argument that England failed to make the last eight is irrelevant because the prime reason for the failure has been removed. If the Australian cannot win where Lancaster did time and again, there had better be a good explanation.
     
    The early excuses cut no ice. The likelihood of just about the most experienced selection possible from the initial squad of 33 makes the explanation of the brevity of time together fallacious at best. There is a new management and time will be taken for understanding to take hold; fair enough.
     
    But Jones seems to have countered this by going for a squad of players whose prime asset is a back catalogue of Six Nations success. England may not have won the tournament under Lancaster but they won plenty of European games. Jones was surely not signed to replicate these feats.
     
    If he has a late change of mind and sticks Maro Itoje, Jack Clifford and Elliot Daly into the starting XV, you could argue that the nature of the English performance in Edinburgh would need to be assessed on the quality of the performance as much as the result (although England would remain favourites whatever the starting selection).
     
    If, as seems inevitable, Jones sticks the old Six Nations combinations back together, victory is a must. If England’s set piece is strong, their defence rock solid and the attacking game shows signs of invention, a first win would earn praise. But if they scramble to victory, well, that wouldn’t be so different to the previous regime’s first game. Jones, we presume, has not been signed for purposes of continuity.



  • Itoje having a stormer of a second half for Saracens vs Bath. Playing at lock but at 195cm and mobile with it, he looks like a blindside to me. Great carrying, big tackling, enormous work rate, 10 turnovers won this season and an genuine lineout option. Eddie has to look at him vs Italy, surely?

    Yeah, I'm assuming Daly, Itoje, maybe Ksvic etc will all get a shot there. I can see why he's not used them first up, the Scotland match is huge profile so thats a massive amount of presure for young guys.
     
    He is going to need to convert a couple of locks you'd assume as Launchberry is outstanding so nailed on for years, Kruis has been playing fantastically so he's in. And Ioje is a future superstar. And then there's Lawes. Both Itoje & Lawes look like they could play blindside or even 8 in Itoje's case. And carry a few more KGs



  • Lawes has been tried at blindside a few times and he hasn't really got it. He's too tall at about 6'7" and just not mobile/dynamic enough. For sure he's pretty dynamic for a lock but gets exposed in the back row. Takes too long to get down on the deck and too long to get back up again. Also, not sure he has the rugby nous to play there. itoje is different, he's a bit smaller at around 6'4" and has a lot more experience at 6. You're right though that they could both easily add a few kgs without losing their effectiveness. Itoje as an 8 could well work. After all we've got more than enough 6s thanks very much.



  • Luke Fitzgerald and Marty Moore are out of squad through injury.
     
    Tighthead looking a bit sparse with first and second choice props out.  Tadgh Furlong and Nathan White now the front runners for the match-day squad.
     
    Moore is replaced by another new cap. 24-year-old Finlay Balham who was born in Australia and moved to Ireland when he was 18,  qualifies for Ireland through his grandmother who is from Enniskillen. He has played for the Ireland Under-20s and Emerging Ireland, helping the latter win the Tbilisi Cup in Georgia last June.  
     
    Fitzgerald's replacement not named until update at training session on Tuesday



  • Even without those injuries PH it doesn't look the most experienced Irish squad in recent times. I have to say it looks odd not seeing O'Connel's name on the squad sheet. He is a big presence to lose.



  • Lawes has been tried at blindside a few times and he hasn't really got it. He's too tall at about 6'7" and just not mobile/dynamic enough. For sure he's pretty dynamic for a lock but gets exposed in the back row. Takes too long to get down on the deck and too long to get back up again. Also, not sure he has the rugby nous to play there. itoje is different, he's a bit smaller at around 6'4" and has a lot more experience at 6. You're right though that they could both easily add a few kgs without losing their effectiveness. Itoje as an 8 could well work. After all we've got more than enough 6s thanks very much.
    Agree about Lawes, he's a beanpole lock all day for me. Paired with a proper tighthead lock he can still be very effective there, his problem at the moment is simply form (along with the rest of the Northampton pack). These things are cyclical though and he'll be back.
    I actually think we're starting to get some good depth at 8 for once. Vunipola is in solid form in his tractor-like way. I don't buy the 'fat and lazy' argument I saw on another thread - you only have to look at the stats from last year's 6 Nations to know that's not true. If we want someone who's going to roam the wider channels rather than the fringes though, Clifford offers that with aplomb, as does Beaumont who's been fantastic for Sale and also offers a superb lineout option. There's also Nathan Hughes, who will be available to poach from the summer and is basically Billy V with more speed and better offloads.
    We do have lots of options at 6 but I think Itoje could be the best of them and should focus himself there. He combines a lot of the others' strengths without their obvious weaknesses; the aerial ability of Croft or Wood, the gainline physicality of Haskell and the workrate and handling of Robshaw. He's arguably better on the floor than all of them, too.
    Sent from my SM-G900F using Tapatalk



  • Classic comment from Stuart Barnes today about the 6 Nations.
    "On the other hand, you can't talk up your team as 'world class' until the summer and autumn come around when they play those pesky southern hemisphere teams and lose a lot more often than not. It has been ever thus.
    Maybe burying your head in the sand and enjoying the local rivalries is best. But please don't talk about great teams and coaches off the back of a tournament that has clearly been second rate on the field.
    Wales and England, in particular, are guilty of exaggerating regional success and ignoring the global deficiencies in their game".



  • Chubby Boy Barnes has a point. If you are to aspire to be the best you have to measure yourself against all comers. Back in the halcyon days of Woodward running the England show that is exactly the mentality he had. Alas for some time now, despite the odd glimmer provided by a win against the SH teams England have not shown this level of expectation, although as he says they may have talked the game.
     
    One thing I disagree with though is that the tournament has "clearly been second rate on the field". We have not had a stand out team in the 6N (a la NZ) but some of the rugby has been bloody good. He is such a bitter man every now and then and he has some serious rugby love for the SH in general and also for Wales. He is very rarely overly complimentary about England. Lack of sufficient caps probably the reason - and to be fair, he did deserve a shed load more.



  • Even without those injuries PH it doesn't look the most experienced Irish squad in recent times. I have to say it looks odd not seeing O'Connel's name on the squad sheet. He is a big presence to lose.

    Agreed - but you have to move on.  And Paulie's ship has sailed.  
     
    On the form some of the more senior players have shown since the World Cup, you wouldn't blame Schmidt selecting some of the newbies and getting them blooded.   But he's too conservative for that.  
     
    In the backs, I'd love if he shifted Payne to 15 - performing better than Rob Kearney - and included newbie, Stu McCloskey to partner Henshaw in midfield to give it more power and panache.  Two of Trimble, Zebo, D Kearney or Earls for the wing spots.  
     
    Also going on form, you'd put Jackson in ahead of Sexton, although he's not the biggest up against the Welsh borgs, but he'll stick with his favourite.   
     
    Toner and McCarthy/Ryan in the locks department doesn't fill me with hope, but I reckon the back row with Stander/O'Brien/Heaslip/Ruddock//O'Donnell/va der Flier to choose from is pretty handy.   Van der Flier looks very promising so hope he gets a run-out at some point.



  • Continuing with my Maro Itoje mancrush, Eddie Jones seems to have a plan for him:Eddie Jones refuses to fast-track Maro Itoje into his England team, but the Saracens lock could yet feature in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations opener against Scotland.
    Jones was present at Allianz Park last weekend to see Itoje's man of the match performance against Bath, describing it as his finest game for the Aviva Premiership champions.
    The 21-year-old was omitted from the 23 retained in preparation for the trip to Edinburgh with Jones believing elements of his game still need work before he is given his first cap
    His hand may be forced, however, if Courtney Lawes fails to recover from his hamstring injury with Thursday's team announcement set as the deadline for the Northampton second row to prove his fitness.
    "Courtney is progressing. We'll give him until Thursday. It looks pretty positive. He probably won't train until Thursday but we're hopeful he'll be all right," Jones said.
    "I went to Saracens - I hid in the stands - and it was the best game I've seen Itoje play for them. It was really good, very impressive.
    "It's never too late to get in the 23. The 23 isn't set in stone, but generally speaking the 23 that we kept are the front runners.
    "Now they can play themselves out of selection by injury and by attitude, so there are still opportunities.
    "But remember that my job is to make Test rugby players. There's a step from club rugby to Test rugby here, as there is in every country.
    "There are subtle but strong differences between a good club player and a good Test player.
    "I want Maro to be a 60-Test player. I don't want him to be a 10 or 20-Test player. Sixty-Test players start their career well and build on that.
    "Some players you can expose too late, some too early. My gut feeling on Maro is that he's definitely progressing, but he needs just a little more time.
    "And if he's going to play 60 Tests for England we can wait because that would mean he's a bloody good player and that's what I think he will be."

    Sent from my SM-G900F using Tapatalk



  • Agreed - but you have to move on.  And Paulie's ship has sailed.  
     
    On the form some of the more senior players have shown since the World Cup, you wouldn't blame Schmidt selecting some of the newbies and getting them blooded.   But he's too conservative for that.  
     
    In the backs, I'd love if he shifted Payne to 15 - performing better than Rob Kearney - and included newbie, Stu McCloskey to partner Henshaw in midfield to give it more power and panache.  Two of Trimble, Zebo, D Kearney or Earls for the wing spots.  
     
    Also going on form, you'd put Jackson in ahead of Sexton, although he's not the biggest up against the Welsh borgs, but he'll stick with his favourite.   
     
    Toner and McCarthy/Ryan in the locks department doesn't fill me with hope, but I reckon the back row with Stander/O'Brien/Heaslip/Ruddock//O'Donnell/va der Flier to choose from is pretty handy.   Van der Flier looks very promising so hope he gets a run-out at some point.

    I think Ireland's tight 5 will be your undoing.  Your 2 best locks now retired and injured, Healy miles off the form that made him world class about 3 years ago, McCarthy in decent enough form but no longer an 80 minute man, and the possibility of Nathan White, he of Crusaders wider training group fame, starting at 3.
     
    However, the interest for me is whether Schmidt is Kiwi adventurous or Irish conservative in his selection policy.  If he's adventurous then Stander starts at 6, McCloskey gets a run at 12, either Henshaw moves to 13 and Payne goes to FB, or Payne stays at 13 and Henshaw goes to 15.  And he doesn't pick Dave Kearney on the wing.
     
    Honestly, if he picks a back 3 that includes Kearney and Kearney then I never want him near the NZ coaching job.



  • Chubby Boy Barnes has a point. If you are to aspire to be the best you have to measure yourself against all comers. Back in the halcyon days of Woodward running the England show that is exactly the mentality he had. Alas for some time now, despite the odd glimmer provided by a win against the SH teams England have not shown this level of expectation, although as he says they may have talked the game.
    One thing I disagree with though is that the tournament has "clearly been second rate on the field". We have not had a stand out team in the 6N (a la NZ) but some of the rugby has been bloody good. He is such a bitter man every now and then and he has some serious rugby love for the SH in general and also for Wales. He is very rarely overly complimentary about England. Lack of sufficient caps probably the reason - and to be fair, he did deserve a shed load more.

    Never got the love for Andrew. With Barnes you played such good footy.
    Barnes Guscott Carling Underwood ...
    As opposed to:
    Andrew ... (polite clapping for touch finder ...)



  • The thing is Boo, Andrew COULD play decent rugby but rarely did. Much happier playing the percentage game and doing as he's told. In marked contrast to his career as an administrator. Oh wait...



  • Sky Sport will broadcast the men's Six Nations:
     
    RBS 6 NATIONS LIVE ON SKY SPORT 1 (unless noted)
     February:
    Sunday Feb 7: 3.15am -  France v Italy; 5.40am - Scotland v England 
    Monday Feb 8: 3.50am - Ireland v Wales 
    Sunday March 14: 3.15am France v Ireland; 5.40am - Wales v Scotland 
    Monday 15 Feb: 2.50am - Italy v England 
    Saturday Feb 27:  8.55am Wales v France
    Sunday Feb 28: 3.15am -  Italy v Scotland (Note; SKY Sport 2); 5.40am - England v Ireland  (Note; SKY Sport 2)
     
    March:
    Sunday March 13: 2.20am - Ireland v Italy; 4.50am England v Wales 
    Monday March 14: 3.50am - Scotland v France 
    Sunday March 20: 3.20am -  Wales v Italy; 5.50am - Ireland v Scotland; 8.50am - France v England



  • The thing is Boo, Andrew COULD play decent rugby but rarely did. Much happier playing the percentage game and doing as he's told. In marked contrast to his career as an administrator. Oh wait...
    It's easy to forget that Andrew could play some great running rugby on his day, but generally that was seen for club rather than for country.
    Being called out as an injury replacement for the 1989 Lions, coinciding with the tide turning with the 2nd Test victory was what I always thought made the difference for Andrew vs Barnes. But reading this extract from "Lions of England", it mentions Barnes making himself unavailable for selection at one point, which I had entirely forgotten:https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=olnBaea-JNYC&pg=PT72&lpg=PT72&dq=lions+89+andrew&source=bl&ots=2J3jdNDOaR&sig=e1nCvXllhfgCBliEoPrsObRiuSk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwitp_ih2tjKAhXHhhoKHTf5DNQQ6AEIODAG#v=onepage&q=lions 89 andrew&f=false
    He was a pretty good cricketer too



  • France by 12-17
    England by 7-12
    Wales by 5-9



  • I'd take that thanks Mike!
     
    For Wales I see George North is happy being back in camp and has come out dissing Northampton's style, saying it doesn't help his game. Sending out a message to other clubs/regions perhaps?



  • I'd take that thanks Mike!
     
    For Wales I see George North is happy being back in camp and has come out dissing Northampton's style, saying it doesn't help his game. Sending out a message to other clubs/regions perhaps?

    The quote that struck me from that interview was:
    "I want to have that space to run at people and have the opportunity, rather than carrying straight into a (defensive) wall"
    Blimey! He does know that Wales are coached by Gatland and Howley, right?


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