As rugby enthusiasts everywhere eagerly await the kickoff of the 2024 Six Nations Championship, anticipation is running high for what promises to be another exhilarating edition of one of rugby’s most prestigious tournaments.
With Andy Farrell’s Ireland leading the pack as defending champions, the competition is set to start with a bang with Friday night’s clash potentially deciding the outright winners. Here’s a preview of how the championship will play out.
Fresh off their grand slam triumph in 2023, Ireland enter the 2024 Six Nations as the team to beat. With a formidable squad boasting seasoned veterans and rising stars, Ireland are poised to maintain their dominance and secure back-to-back titles.
Heading into the tournament without the leadership of Johnny Sexton will be a challenge but the next man up, Munster’s Jack Crowley, is more than capable of rising to the occasion. Arguably, this season’s Six Nations winners might come down to the first 80 minutes of action. Compared to Ireland’s Leinster and Munster-dominated squad, France’s team is made up of players from all corners of the Top 14, meaning they might start slowly on Friday.
One only has to look at their performance in Rome twelve months ago as they barely got over the Italians in round one. Ireland have a fantastic opportunity of getting the best of Les Blues in the opening contest which would map out a more than achievable route to going back-to-back.
Player to watch – Joe McCarthy
- NEW TO PADDY POWER? PLACE A £5 BET ON SPORTS GET £20 IN FREE BETS!
Hot on Ireland’s heels is a resurgent French team determined to reclaim their former glory. As mentioned, Friday’s titanic clash will be the stage bearer on how this tournament will unfold and who will have the upper hand going into their final four games.
Not having Antoine Dupont barking out the orders and influencing games, as he prepares for the Olympics, is a glaring miss for the French not only for Friday but for the tournament as a whole. However the French are never to be taken lightly, and under the astute leadership of head coach Fabien Galthié, Les Bleus are poised to mount a serious title challenge and push Ireland all the way to the wire.
Player to Watch – Peato Mauvaka
Scotland enter the tournament with renewed optimism and a hunger to make their mark on the international stage. Scotland possess the attacking prowess to trouble even the strongest opponents.
The self-proclaimed ‘Messi’ of International Rugby, Finn Russell, is playing some of his best stuff in Bath this season and will be the deciding factor in how well the Scots go this year. Gregor Townsend has developed this team in his tenure to be real competitors but they still have another level to go. Scotland will be aiming to build on their recent successes but a top-three finish this year I feel is their limit.
Player to watch – Finn Russell
England, have forever been contenders in the Six Nations, but this year they face an even tougher schedule than last. They must travel away to Scotland and France, with Ireland coming to Twickenham being no easy home task.
They will enter this tournament without the guidance of Owen Farrell which may leave them susceptible for leadership in the backline. However, they do have that grittiness about them. Just look at how far they pushed eventual World Cup winners South Africa in the semi-final, with only a late penalty from Leicester Tigers’ Handre Pollard all that stood between them and another final.
With that being said, England did have the easier side of the draw and I feel that Ireland and France will have too much firepower. I’d fancy Scotland to do the business over them at home in Murrayfield too, leaving the chariot back in fourth place.
Player to watch – Marcus Smith
Wales finds themselves in a period of transition as Warren Gatland attempts to navigate one of the most turbulent eras in Welsh rugby. Even before a ball was kicked, the Wales boss was informed that one of his star players, Louis Rhys Zammit is chasing his NFL dream and won’t be available for selection.
Gatland’s experience within the squad is extremely slack, even being highlighted by the selection of Dafydd Jenkins as captain of the side at just 21 years old. Wales faces a challenging road ahead and it’s impossible to see them making a challenge for the title.
Player to watch – Dafydd Jenkins
Italy, perennial underdogs in the Six Nations, will once again be aiming to defy the odds and cause some upsets along the way. But will they cause any upsets? It’s highly unlikely. Italy finished off their World Cup campaign with a whimper going down to heavy defeats at the hands of Les Blues and the All Blacks.
Gonzalo Quesada takes over from Kieran Crowley and he will need time to get his ideas and playing style across to his limited squad. It’ll likely be another wooden spoon for the Azzuri.
Player to watch – Ange Capuozzo
Top Try Scorer
Jamie George (each-way)
Looking at the best bets for the top try scorer, France’s Damian Penaud looks like the standout option. France will score tries and a lot of them and most likely the Bordeaux winger will be at the end of a lot of French attacks.
If you’re looking for a longshot bet, England’s Jamie George is a try-scoring machine. Steve Borthwick encompassed a lot of his coaching traits from Leicester into his international side and the main one being that fiercesome rolling maul. George is no stranger to the try line and if you’re looking for an eachway option, he’s your man.
*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.
- Six Nations 2024: Fixtures, kick-off times, results and tips