Will France make the most of their strong squad? Can Scotland, Ireland and Wales match them all the way? And where will England finish? Sportsmail’s columnists and experts make their Six Nations predictions…
The Six Nations begins on Saturday with this year set to be very competitive
France, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England are all capable of winning this year
Sportsmail’s columnists and experts make their 2022 predictions
By Sportsmail Reporter
Published: 23:42 GMT, 4 February 2022 | Updated: 23:42 GMT, 4 February 2022
The phrase ‘The Six Nations is back’ has never felt sweeter.
Fans return to all the competition’s grounds for the first time since before the Covid-19 pandemic began marks, meaning rugby’s biggest annual tournament has its biggest stage back.
With this year set to be competitive right form the off, Sportsmail’s columnists and experts make their crystal ball predictions for how the table looks after five rounds…
Sportsmail’s columnists and experts make their Six Nations predictions for the 2022 campaign
SIR CLIVE WOODWARD
It’s going to be hugely competitive and a Grand Slam is unlikely, but I think this exciting France team will finally claim some silverware, an important staging post en route to the 2023 World Cup. Ireland will match them all the way and their head-to-head in Paris next week is the key game.
England could go well but need to win in Edinburgh on Saturday. Scotland and Wales are dangerous floaters, they can beat anybody on their day, but it is a savage tournament this year. No hiding place. Bonus points and even points difference will come into play so every side must scrap for everything, which is very bad news for Italy.
All the main contenders must beat the Italians by the biggest possible margin.
The French have the strongest squad. They are on a roll after beating the All Blacks and they have a really good coaching staff, with Shaun Edwards having a big impact on their defence, mentality and discipline. They could lose a game, but I think they’ll take the title.
Ireland have the most familiarity in their combinations and attacking style, with a lot of experience, so they’re in the mix. England have a lot of exciting young talent but also a number of experienced guys, so I can see them pushing Ireland for second.
Scotland have top-class players in all areas but is their system good enough? Wales are missing a lot of their stars while Italy really need to cause an upset somewhere, and they have the potential to do that.
This falls down if England are beaten at Murrayfield today, but their rookies can trump the Scots and then the whole campaign opens up.
Ireland are fancied to challenge strongly but they face trips to Paris and London — and by the time they come to Twickenham, England could have Manu Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes back and at full throttle, with a title to aim for.
Andy Farrell will also fear the implications if Johnny Sexton’s injuries force him out again. France are the clear favourites so stand by for a classic Super Saturday finale when they edge out England to win the title and — if they properly harness a vast array of talent — a Grand Slam too.
As usual, Italy are certainties for the wooden spoon and Wales are too weakened to compete.
Throwing England’s youngsters into the cauldrons of Murrayfield and Paris will be a tough learning experience.
Marcus Smith and Freddie Steward have never experienced international rugby on the road and that could be their downfall.
Led by the formidable Antoine Dupont, France are enjoying a golden era, so it is hard to look beyond a clean sweep. Ireland are loaded with experience, Scotland are masters of inconsistency and Wales have been ravaged by injuries. Italy stand no chance.
France are rightly favourites and the team who prevail when Fabien Galthie’s side host Ireland in round two will go on to win the Championship.
Les Bleus have had Covid problems, but the players appear to be over those and whipping boys Italy is the easiest of starts. Meeting Ireland and England at home is also a big advantage.
Eddie Jones has had to deal with so much disruption with England and they will do well to win in Scotland. Recent history tells us Scotland struggle to deal with the weight of expectation.
A tight Championship awaits, but my prediction is France will edge Ireland, although there will be no Grand Slam this year.
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