The Six Nations and all its glory returns again for 2017 where champions England will defend their coveted crown.
The Grand Slam follows a sensational autumn series of rugby which saw Eddie Jones’ men go unbeaten, Ireland topple the All Blacks in Chicago and Italy defeat South Africa for the first time in their history.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the highly anticipated first round of fixtures this weekend.
Rory Best, Greig Laidlaw, Dylan Hartley and Alun Wyn Jones will all hope to feature on the British & Irish Lions tour in June. AFP / BEN STANSALL
The question on the lips of every England fan is, will it get much better? After they discarded every tier one team in 2016 bar the All Blacks — whom they didn’t play — confidence is sky high. Injuries to the likes of Billy and Mako Vunipola haven’t been ideal preparation, but what Eddie Jones has learnt over the course of an historic year is that he has strength in depth.
Seen as the biggest threat to Eddie Jones’ England, Ireland come in on the back of an impressive 2016. They defeated the All Blacks for the first time, had a win over Australia, and will feel they let a series victory over South Africa slip through their fingers last summer.
Despite labouring at times, Wales equalled their best autumn record by November’s end with victories over Argentina, Japan and South Africa — but the disappointing defeat to Australia and the manner of those wins leaves many worried that this could be a Six Nations campaign to forget.
Although they are underdogs, there is a swagger about Vern Cotter’s Scotland side for this Grand Slam. They don’t just think they can compete, they believe they can win. Their opening game, at home against Ireland, could set them as an outside bet for the Six Nations crown.
Despite back-to-back defeats to Australia and New Zealand, France finally looked to be on the brink of something special towards the end of last year. Noa Nakaitaci and Virimi Vakatawa look set to light up the tournament.
It seemed to all that victory over South Africa was a turning point for the Azzurri — then they fell to a defeat to Tonga. After that result it is difficult to see Italy making strides in this year’s Six Nations, but it will be an interesting test for boss Conor O’Shea in his first Grand Slam.
Pick players with the potential to score tries. That is one strategy suggested to selectors choosing their fifteens for our 2017 Six Nations Fantasy competition.
There are no changes to the rules that governed last year’s game, so the best rewards are heavily weighted towards try-scorers.
2017 Fantasy Rugby!
Pick your team from the hundreds of players about to fight for the championship and be in the mix to win a MacBook Pro.
The big change is in the tournament itself. This will be the first Six Nations with bonus points for scoring four or more tries or losing by small margins (seven or fewer). The organisers hope the reward will encourage more attacking play and yield more tries, but will the innovation really change teams’ approach to matches? While the jury may still be out on that one, it makes sense for punters to consider packing their fifteens with possible try-scorers.
British and Irish Lions
British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland will use the Six Nations to help with his team selection. David Rogers/Getty Images
Warren Gatland will have an idea of his British & Irish Lions squad for the summer tour of New Zealand as the Six Nations starts. We look at who could start the first test against the All Blacks.
Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/18612481/six-nations-2017-preview-england-france-ireland-scotland-wales-italy
Six Nations: Everything you need to know
www.espn.co.uk – RUGBY