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Early Six Nations prediction: France to win Grand Slam

The Six Nations is now just weeks away, and fans across the world now eagerly wait for the festival of rugby to begin.

The Six Nations is now just weeks away, and fans across the world now eagerly wait for the festival of rugby to begin.

Often viewed as ‘Christmas for rugby fans’, the Six Nations brings so much hope, enjoyment and more importantly high quality rugby-and this year is set to be no different.

France and Ireland come into the tournament as heavy favourites, and both teams will be eager to write the wrongs of their respective World Cup quarter-final knock-outs.

England have struggled in recent Six Nations, however their run to the World Cup semi-finals, coupled with a fresh looking squad, could bring a new lease of life to the sleeping giant.

Scotland are always seen as a dark horse for the title, but the squad Gregor Townsend has at his disposal this year are very capable of playing that X-factor style of rugby they have become famed for. Could it finally be their year to lift the trophy?

Wales are in a state of turmoil, but we all know what Warren Gatland can do to a team, and he will want to bring silverware back to his adopted nation.

Last but not least, Italy come into the tournament with a fresh looking coaching group, as well as a good cohort of young players. Could they finally lift themselves off the bottom of the pile?

Here is our early Six Nations prediction:

Six Nations 2024 predicted table

First: France

2023 Rugby World Cup Pool A, OL Stadium, Lyon, France 6/10/2023 France vs Italy Damian Penaud of France scores the first try Damian Penaud scores the first try 6/10/2023 PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUKxIRLxFRAxNZL Copyright: x INPHO/DavexWinterx _WIN1385

Fabien Galthié’s side will be hurting after their World Cup dreams were crushed by the Springboks, and this could inspire them to the Grand Slam.

The French side are of course without talisman Antoine Dupont this year as he prepares for the Olympics, but they boast a fantastic squad. The back division includes the likes of Thomas Ramos, Damien Penaud, Gaël Fickou and the red hot Matthieu Jalibert. This exciting back-line is capable of playing some fantastic champagne rugby, and they also boast an ability to score at will.

France also have a truly monstrous pack-if the right players are included it can reach over 1000kg. This power game will be boosted by the likes of Gregory Alldritt, Uini Atonio and Charles Ollivon, who are all playing some fantastic rugby for their clubs at the moment and this should seamlessly carry over to the national team.

The Grand Slam is likely theirs for the taking, but will they seize the opportunity?

Second: Ireland

2023 Rugby World Cup Pool B, Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France 23/9/2023 South Africa vs Ireland James Lowe of Ireland celebrates a turnover James Lowe celebrates a turnover 23/9/2023 PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUKxIRLxFRAxNZL Copyright: x INPHO/DavexWinterx _WIN3405

Ireland come into the tournament as defending champions, but could see the title slip from their grasp this year.

Ireland are capable of playing some brilliant rugby, especially through the backline; however they will of course be without legend Jonny Sexton after he hung up his boots. They were already condemned to be without star winger Mack Hansen, as well as Jimmy O’Brien and Dave Kilcoyne before the tournament; but a gruelling weekend in the Champions Cup has seen them take some fresh losses which could hamper their title defence.

Conor Murray, Harry Byrne, Tom Ahern and skipper Peter O’Mahony are all injury doubts too, and this leaves Andy Farrell in a sticky situation.

They of course still have a squad littered with superstars-such as Leinster duo Hugo Keenan and James Lowe-but these injuries could hamper their chances at defending their crown. They are by no means down and out though.

Third: England

Joie des joueurs de l equipe d Angleterre apres l essai de THEO DAN 2 – Angleterre – RUGBY : Argentine vs Angleterre – Petite Finale Coupe du Monde – 27/10/2023 FedericoPestellini/Panoramic PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxFRAxBEL

England have picked a fresh-faced 36-man squad for this Six Nations, but is it too early in the rebuild to fight for the title? As is the nature of the beast, every game is crucial to table positions, and England begin their campaign with arguably the easiest game of the lot as they take on Italy. This gives Steve Borhwick’s new side every chance to build some momentum in the tournament.

They have rewarded players for their form in the Gallagher Premiership and Investec Champions Cup too, so they could see an improvement on last year’s forth placed finish; but in all likeliness it is far too early for them to compete with the big dogs at the top.

Forth: Scotland

RUGBY COUPE DU MONDE ECOSSE ROUMANIE PHOTOPQR/VOIX DU NORD/PIERRE ROUANET 30/09/2023 Lille, le 30/09/2023. Coupe du monde de rugby France 2023 rugby world cup, RWC 2023. Match de poule B au Grand stade de Lille stade Pierre Mauroy, Decathlon Arena, Ecosse Scotland vs. Roumanie Romania. PHOTO PIERRE ROUANET LA VOIX DU NORD – Rugby World Cup 2023 – SCOTLAND ROMANIA LILLE France Sept 30 2023 Nord France PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxFRAxBELxSUIxUK Copyright: xPHOTOPQR/VOIXxDUxNORD/MAXPPPxPIERRExROUANETx 20230930VDN5911 20230930VDN5911

The question ‘is it Scotland’s year’ is always asked, but it likely won’t be a yes this year.

Gregor Townsend’s side are capable of playing some spectacular rugby, led by maverick fly-half Finn Russell. Russell is the heartbeat of this Scotland side, however he combines brilliantly with the midfield unit of Huw Jones, Cameron Redpath and Sione Tuipulotu.

A part of their game that is often overlooked is how good their forwards are. Faegerson’s Matt and Zander are quality players around the park, and co-captain Rory Darge is also a fantastic player; however they are the ‘new brand’ of forward, and can easily become unstuck against more powerful sides.

Scotland are an exciting team to watch, but they might have to wait a bit longer to finally lift the Six Nations.

Fifth: Wales

Gareth Davies Pays de Galles RUGBY : Wolrd Champion Cup – Pays de Galles vs Argentine – Quart de finale – Marseille – 14/10/2023 NorbertScanella/Panoramic PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxFRAxBEL

This might be a long seven weeks for Wales, however it is an experience they need to get through to build for the future. Warren Gatland has put his faith into the youngsters, and no more so than new skipper Dafydd Jenkins. Giving the 21-year-old the armband suggests Gatland is using this tournament to blood in his new players and build a bed of experience in the run up to the 2027 World Cup, and this could bear fruit in years to come.

Jenkins isn’t the only youngster likely to be thrust into the spotlight, as Sam Costelow looks nailed onto start at fly-half this tournament. He has impressed in his displays to date, but being the number one choice in the hollowed Wales number 10 jersey will be a huge step up for him. The backline around him is very talented though, with Rio Dyer, Josh Adams and Mason Grady all providing huge amounts of quality to the side.

Wales’ young squad will be tested a lot this tournament, but it appears they are starting to build an exciting squad ready for the future.

Sixth: Italy

RWC – Italy v Uruguay Juan Ignacio Brex 13 of Italy, Alessandro Fusco 22 of Italy, Paolo Garbisi 12 of Italy, Ange Capuozzo 15 of Italy during the Rugby World Cup match between Italy and Uruguay at Stade de Nice on September 20, 2023 in Nice, France. Photo by Baptiste Paquot/ABACAPRESS.COM Nice France PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxFRAxESPxUKxUSAxBELxPOL Copyright: xPaquotxBaptiste/ABACAx 868651_041 PaquotxBaptiste/ABACAx 868651_041

Italy are, at times, capable of playing some great rugby; but they will likely finish in last place again. They are very pleasing to watch, and love to throw the ball around in attack. The World Cup showed what they can do in full flight, as they downed Namibia and Uruguay, but they struggled against the bigger sides.

Their backline is probably their strength, with players like Ange Capuozzo, Tomaso Allan, Paulo Garbisi and Tommaso Menoncello in the side. In the forwards, they also have some talented youngsters, including captain Michelle Lamaro and uncapped Exeter Chiefs back-row Ross Vintcent. They can cause real problems for opposition defences, but will need to do this for a full 80-minutes if they want to avoid another wooden spoon.

Six Nations 2024 fixtures

Round One:

Friday 2nd February: France v Ireland (20:00)

Saturday 3rd February: Italy v England (14:15) Wales v Scotland (16:45)

Round Two

Saturday, 10 February: Scotland v France (14:15) England v Wales (16:45)

Sunday, 11 February: Ireland v Italy (15:00)

Round Three:

Saturday, 24 February: Ireland v Wales (14:15) Scotland v England (16:45)

Sunday, 25 February: France v Italy (15:00)

Round Four:

Saturday, 9 March: Italy v Scotland (14:15) England v Ireland (16:45)

Sunday, 10 March: Wales v France (15:00)

Round Five:

Saturday, 16 March: Wales v Italy (14:15) Ireland v Scotland (16:45) France v England (20:00)