Inform your 2022 Six Nations predictions with insight, analysis, and odds from Pinnacle.
The Six Nations has been an extremely competitive competition in recent years but the 2022 instalment of the saga could be the most open title race since its formation in 2000.
With five of the six teams harbouring genuine hopes of lifting the trophy on March 19, here’s how the sides are shaping up going into the highly anticipated tournament.
Uncertainty surrounds new-look England
With a number of the old guard seemingly out of the picture, England head coach Eddie Jones looks to be going in a new direction for the Six Nations this year.
The likes of Billy and Mako Vunipola, who were key players on England’s route to the 2019 World Cup final, have not made the squad, while the likes of Elliot Daly and Manu Tuilagi are other notable absentees.
Jones looks set to start Harlequins star Marcus Smith at fly-half, which if the 22-year-old is allowed to play his own creative game, should see England play more expansive rugby this year.
Skipper Owen Farrell has been ruled out of the opening game against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 5, in a match that will have a big impact on both teams’ likely fortunes for the remainder of the tournament.
France must handle ‘favourites’ tag
After finishing second to Wales in the Six Nations last season, many expect France to go one better in 2022. The French have a wealth of talent across the field, and have arguably the best player in the world right now in the form of scrum-half Antoine Dupont.
A landmark 40-25 dismantling of New Zealand in the Autumn Internationals just shows what this French side are capable of, as they build nicely towards the World Cup on home soil next year.
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Ireland showing real promise
The form of the Irish provinces this season is a good indication that Ireland will be there or thereabouts for the title come the final round of the Six Nations on March 19.
Of the top five teams in the United Rugby Championship standings, three of those are Irish teams. Meanwhile, all four provinces - Leinster, Munster, Connacht and Ulster - have reached the knockouts stages of the European Champions Cup this season.
With a powerful pack and a structured game, there might not be too many thrills from this Ireland side but they know how to win high-pressure Test matches.
Italians going backwards
Unfortunately for Italy, it looks set to be another long slog of a tournament - after what was a tournament to forget in 2021. The Italians failed to register a single table point in their clean sweep of defeats, conceding a huge 239 points during those five painful matches.
It’s hard to see any positive signs leading into the tournament that anything will change, and once again, questions are likely to be raised over Italy’s place in the Six Nations.
Scots searching for consistency
Scotland have been labelled the dark horses on countless occasions and they showed last season they can beat any team in the competition. The Scots ended long waits for wins in London and Paris but just fell narrowly short in their home defeats to Ireland and Wales.
Head coach Gregor Townsend will be looking to build off their 2021 Six Nations performance and will know that consistency and accuracy in performance is what will end that wait for a maiden Six Nations crown.
Wales out to prove doubters wrong
Wales may be the reigning Six Nations champions but not many are giving the men in red much hope of retaining the title. Wales benefitted from three red cards handed out to oppositions in three of their five games last season and without those perhaps the title would have gone elsewhere.
Injuries did not help the Welsh cause during the Autumn Internationals and it’s not certain what the Wales team will look like this season.
Wales have a tough opener to the tournament, playing away in Dublin and it would be a real uphill battle for Wayne Pivac’s side were they to lose that encounter against the Irish.
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