Has the Six Nations given any pointers towards the Rugby World Cup?
We are midway through the 2015 Six Nations tournament, yet it is still too close to call a winner. Ireland currently sit top of the division after victory over England in their last match, however both Wales and the English can still win the tournament if Warren Gatland’s side can topple the Irish at the Millennium Stadium in their next clash. Although it would be satisfying to win the Six Nations, the majority of sides are more concerned about their performances heading into the Rugby World Cup this autumn. We take a look at France, Wales, Ireland and England, and see if they are worth backing in the flagship tournament later in the year.
The French have been disappointing in the first three matches of the tournament. They defeated Scotland 15-9, although they could easily have lost that match after Vern Cotter’s side failed to capitalise on excellent field position. Meanwhile, they were well beaten 18-11 by Ireland in Dublin after they couldn’t neutralise the Irish kicking game, with the home side dominating the territory. In their latest match, they were beaten in France by a well-organised Wales side, after the French allowed Leigh Halfpenny numerous opportunities to keep the scoreboard ticking over. They will face Ireland again in the World Cup and will be looking for a significantly improved showing in October.
Wales opened the tournament with a shock home defeat to England, despite the away side fielding a depleted team. However, they have won their last two away matches against Scotland and France – which has helped Gatland’s side restore some pride. Wales have suffered a few injuries throughout the three matches so far, but have managed to find that all-important team spirit to still win games. The Welsh outfit can still win the Six Nations but they will be more concerned about an improved performance against Ireland, particularly in preparation for a difficult World Cup group including England and Australia in September.
Ireland have been the standout side of the Six Nations so far. With the excellent vision of Jonathan Sexton, and the drive of forwards like Paul O’Connell, they have been able to dominate the territory and possession throughout their three matches so far. The Irish are bang in form, having won their last 10 successive games – including victories over Australia and South Africa. They have a genuine chance of going far in this year’s World Cup and it would be difficult to argue against the in-form team, even though they may not be as free-flowing as other nations involved.
For the English, the Six Nations is all about preparing for the World Cup. They earned an impressive victory over Wales at the Millennium Stadium – a place where they were defeated 30-3 just two years ago. On the other hand, their 47-17 victory over Italy at Twickenham was marred with some poor ball handling and questionable defending, while defeat to Ireland in their last match was perhaps expected, it showed that England still have issues that need to be resolved before the start of the World Cup. England will fancy their chances in the tournament in front of their home fans, but face tough tests against Australia and Wales in order to progress through the group stages.
Ireland are currently the in-form team, but England are well fancied to challenge for World Cup glory on October 31st. England may progress from Pool A as group winners while Wales will fight with Australia for second spot, with Ireland and France set to battle it out for the top spot in Pool D. If England win Pool A, it means that they are likely to avoid both South Africa and New Zealand until the later stages and that could be crucial as they attempt to win their first World Cup since 2003.