Six Nations 2019: team-by-team guide

first_img Facebook Joey Carbery in training with Ireland. Photograph: Matt Browne/Sportsfile via Getty Images The 35-year-old Sergio Parisse will be aiming to make 2019 a memorable last hurrah in the Six Nations. Photograph: Andrew Medichini/AP Facebook Share on Facebook Share on Messenger The scrum-half Greig Laidlaw remains an essential piece on Scotland’s chess board. Photograph: Paul Harding/PA Wales rugby union team WalesCoach Warren GatlandCaptain Alun Wyn JonesLast year 2nd Pinterest Italy rugby union team France rugby union team Facebook Ireland rugby union team Pinterest Facebook IrelandCoach Joe SchmidtCaptain Rory BestLast year ChampionsHaving beaten all their tier-one rivals in the past 15 months strength in depth is no longer a problem and Ireland were able to overcome the loss of Conor Murray in the autumn, when New Zealand were among their victims. Facebook Scotland rugby union team Six Nations 2019 Will Schmidt, in his farewell year, treat the Six Nations as a self‑contained tournament or use it as preparation for the World Cup, giving Joey Carbery a start, say, as an insurance should Johnny Sexton be sidelined in Japan? It may depend on their first game, England at home – an evening of collisions hinging on a few set plays – followed by Scotland at Murrayfield, opponents who will test them in very different ways.What was most impressive about the victory over the All Blacks was the way Ireland held their defensive shape, minds remaining clear when bodies tired. They are the masters of the breakdown, quickly gauging the tolerance threshold of referees, and they have become smart under Schmidt, rarely deviating from their script. But perhaps the best way to tackle them is to start quickly and make them learn new lines. Ireland have led at half-time in 18 of their past 19 Tests and the last time they overcame an interval deficit to win was in Argentina in 2014. Share on Pinterest Pinterest Support The Guardian features Topics The fly-half Camille Lopez will be a pivotal player for France in the Six Nations. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images Twitter Gatland is not given to outbursts of emotion but even he would be moved should his time in the Six Nations with Wales end with a title decider against Ireland, who gave him his first international job, the lone blemish on his coaching CV.Wales have gained a reputation for being slow starters, so France away is not the worst of openers given the hosts are a juggernaut that needs a few turns of the key to get going. In the past couple of years, Wales have developed a counterattacking game and no matter how many back-row injuries they suffer, they never seem to run out of turnover specialists. Their set pieces are not the strongest, their back division not the biggest or quickest and there has been a change of guard at half-back. However, Gatland’s teams tend to add up to more than the sum of their parts and, based on fitness, defensive organisation and the eye for a chance, are major contenders.ScotlandCoach Gregor TownsendCaptain John BarclayLast year 3rd Pinterest Twitter Twitter Pinterest It is six years since Italy won at home in the Six Nations, with their last victory in the championship coming in Scotland in 2015. Treviso, under the former All Black Kieran Crowley, have made significant strides but with only three of O’Shea’s squad playing outside Italy, defeat has become ingrained. They showed against Scotland last March, when victory was denied them at the last, they have one game in them. It will be the tournament’s last hurrah, surely, for the magnificent Parisse, and Italy will miss the injured back-row Jake Polledri. After 12 wins in 19 years and a world ranking of 15th, Italy’s place in the championship will continue to be questioned. Share on LinkedIn Share on Twitter … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. Whether we are up close or further away, the Guardian brings our readers a global perspective on the most critical issues of our lifetimes – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. We believe complex stories need context in order for us to truly understand them. 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Twitter Twitter England rugby union team With Owen Farrell in charge, England will not lack bite in the last tournament before the World Cup. Photograph: Tim Williams/Action Plus via Getty Images Warren Gatland’s Wales have developed a counterattacking game and never seem to run out of turnover specialists. Photograph: Gibso/Fotosport/Rex/Shutterstock The fixture list has not been kind to Eddie Jones’s England: trips to last season’s top two, Ireland and Wales, come in the first three rounds. But come through those and they finish with Italy and Scotland at home, fixtures they have not lost in the Six Nations era.The 2016 and 2017 champions will be the underdogs in Dublin, but with the Vunipola brothers fit again, Manu Tuilagi starting and Farrell in charge, England will not lack bite. England were the last team to win in Dublin in the Six Nations: victory would avenge Ireland’s achievement last year in becoming the first team to win at Twickenham in the tournament for six years, and it promises to be a thunderous encounter.Jones started his reign by talking about his desire for players to turn into problem solvers on the field but has found they are more comfortable in structure and security, and they resembled Ireland in some ways last autumn when they were within a disallowed try of beating New Zealand. Quick service will be needed from scrum-half but they possess a clarity they lacked even in the two seasons when winning the title. Unlikely to be at their most efficient until the World Cup, but England will take some breaking down.ItalyCoach Conor O’SheaCaptain Sergio ParisseLast year 6th Six Nations could be tougher to win this year than the Rugby World Cup Facebook When France secured the grand slam in 2010, they had won more matches in the first decade of the Six Nations than any other country. As the tournament completes its second 10 years, they are in third place, behind England and Ireland with Wales catching up: the last time they won away other than in Rome or Edinburgh was in 2011. A year ago Brunel, in his first match as the coach after succeeding Guy Noves, plumped for one of his Bordeaux-Bègles prodigies, Matthieu Jalibert, a little-known 19-year-old. His debut, against Ireland, lasted 30 minutes before he sustained knee ligament damage and he remains out of action. Brunel has started with four 10s since then with Camille Lopez fit again for the autumn series. He will be one of their pivotal players in the championship. Brunel has been more consistent, or should that be less inconsistent, in selection than his three predecessors, and has made France harder to break down. Next comes attack, and the wing Teddy Thomas is back in favour, not to mention fitness. France scored nearly 60% of their points in 2018 in the first half of games. Shock factor rather than champions but they could be a handful in the World Cup.EnglandCoach Eddie JonesCaptain Owen FarrellLast year 5th Share via Email Since you’re here… Townsend is keenly aware of his side’s less than impressive away record. Scoland’s two matches on the road are at grounds where they have never won in the Six Nations era, the Stade de France and Twickenham. They have won seven matches – five in Rome – and lost 41 away, and in 13 of the 19 years since Italy have been part of the championship, they have drawn a blank outside Murrayfield. This year they have two home matches before they have to scour for travel sickness remedies. Italy are followed by Ireland, and Scotland will need to at times temper their gung-ho approach, one reason why Greig Laidlaw remains an essential piece on Townsend’s chess board.The scrum-half appreciates when territory is needed and when to fire a back division containing Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg. Where Scotland are giving themselves a chance away is the harder edge they are developing at forward, as Glasgow and Edinburgh have shown in Europe. They may not win the title but with Ireland and Wales visiting Murrayfield, they may decide who wears the crown.FranceCoach Jacques BrunelCaptain Guilhem GuiradoLast year 4th Twitter Pinterest Reuse this contentlast_img

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