Six Nations 2018 Championship in focus: Team-by-team previews

The Six Nations returns on Saturday in what looks like one of the most open championships in the history of the competition.

England will seek to make history, Scotland a first title since 1999, Ireland a return to silverware, Wales a title challenge, France a fresh start, and Italy a scalp or two.

Never in the history of the championship – since 1883 – has one nation won the title outright for three consecutive years. Eddie Jones’ England will get that opportunity.

For the last six years of the championship we have had three nations pick up consecutive titles: 2012 & 2013 by Wales, 2014 & 2015 by Ireland and 2016 & 2017 by England. Who will be next in line to lift the trophy?

England

A Grand Slam in 2016 in Eddie Jones’ maiden year in charge was followed by a successful defence of the title last year, albeit without the Slam.

However, with other nations delivering strong autumn campaigns and England’s substantial injury list, the route to lifting the trophy on Super Saturday will not be an easy one.

Read England’s full tournament preview HERE.

Ireland

Following two years of underperformance, can Joe Schmidt’s Ireland show the consistency needed to reclaim the Six Nations title in 2018?

For all the success Schmidt has brought to Ireland in his four years in charge, two things he has yet to achieve are a victory at Twickenham and a Grand Slam. Could they both be on the line come St Patrick’s Day?

Read Ireland’s full tournament preview HERE.

Scotland

Scotland have grown under the guidance of Gregor Townsend, but will they deliver under the pressure of growing expectations?

The bookies currently rate Scotland as third favourites behind Ireland and England to lift their first championship since 1999. But substance rather than sentiment is responsible for shifting their market price.

Read Scotland’s full tournament preview HERE.

Wales

Decimated by injuries, Wales are hoping they can harness the European momentum of Scarlets and Cardiff Blues.

Warren Gatland raised a few eyebrows when he declared Wales as favourites to lift the Six Nations title. It may well be that his reasoning is rooted in the European form of the regions.

Read Wales’ full tournament preview HERE.

France

With a new coach and a young squad, can France find some winning momentum in 2018?

Newly-appointed France head coach Jacques Brunel has opted for a youthful squad as he tries to re-ignite Les Bleus for the 2018 Six Nations.

Under Guy Noves, France won just three of their 11 Tests in 2017 – all those wins coming in the 2017 Six Nations. A 3-0 series defeat in South Africa last June foreshadowed a poor autumn campaign that ended with a disappointing 23-23 draw with Japan, ultimately costing Noves his job.

Building some winning momentum will be crucial for them – and with three homes games, that is a real possibility – but they will need to hit the ground running against Ireland in the opening game and turn up for their round 4 clash against England.

Read France’s full tournament preview HERE.

Italy

Competitive club performances in the PRO14 and the development work of Conor O’Shea cannot mask the challenges facing Italy ahead of this tournament.

The Azzurri have won just one match in their last 11 Tests and since entering the tournament in 2000, the Italians have finished bottom of the table 12 times.

They’ll be targeting a scalp, but their form on the road has been terrible in this competition and they face many pundits’ favourites England, in Rome for their opening game.

Read Italy’s full tournament preview HERE.

Source.