In this World Cup year, the Six Nations Rugby Tournament will serve as a dress rehearsal for the big Northern Hemisphere teams as they prepare to go to New Zealand in September and October.
England fans have to be really looking forward to this year's competition. England has not lifted the Six Nations trophy since 2003, when England also were crowned World Cup champs in that epic final against the Wallabies. In the past 8 months, England counts two wins over Australia, and they played some really great rugby in the November internationals. England kicks off the competition today in Cardiff against Wales, where flanker Martyn Williams finds himself on the outside looking in. Hopefully it will be a better game than last year's miserable game at Twickenham. Wales, grand slam winners back in 2008 will try to bring out their A game against the auld enemy, but I think England win this in a close one.
With France's less than impressive results in the last 8 months, including some major drubbings at the hands of the Spingboks, Pumas and Wallabies (The last one at the Stade de France), it's easy to forget that France were actually Grand Slam winners of this competition last year, but Marc Lievremont is going to have to do some heavy massaging of some bruised egos. The one thing also easy to forget is that French clubs have done very well at the club level in the Amlin Challenge Cup and the Heineken Cup. Scotland, France's opponent tomorrow at the Stade de France, has not won this competition since the old 5 Nations competition in 1999. In the past year, Scotland have defeated both Australia and South Africa. It should be added that both of those wins were in Murrayfield. If Scotland were to beat France in St. Denis, that would the biggest road win for Scottish rugby in quite some time. I think France huffs and puff it's way to a difficult win against the plucky Scots.
Italy gets to host a really banged up Irish side in Rome. The Irish, Grand Slam winners two years ago, are going to be facing an Italian side who will probably be smelling blood. There will probably be at least a third of the crowd wearing green at the Stadio Faminio, but I think Nick Mallet's men in blue can take advantage of this situation and beat Ireland. This one is my upset special for the weekend.
Enjoy the weekend. I plan on enjoying France-Scotland on TV tomorrow.