France lived up to their pre-tournament expectations, winning the Grand Slam and claiming their first title since 2010 – which is the same year they also previously managed a Grand Slam win.
With the French playing host to the Rugby World Cup next year, attention will quickly turn to that – and there’s no denying they’ll be up there amongst the favourites, when dissecting the latest rugby odds from Betfair.
However, for the home nations, it is time to take stock of their performances at the Six Nations ahead of two big tournaments next year. Read on, as we deliver the final verdict on each of the six teams.
Lighting up the tournament in some style, even a Friday night in Cardiff could not deter Fabien Galthié’s side, who secured a narrow victory over the Welsh, winning 13-9 to keep the dreams of a Grand Slam alive. But their class was evident throughout their campaign – and is well-reflected in the Team of the Tournament. Les Bleus will be buoyed by the recent news that their head coach has committed his future to the nation – extending his contract until the end of the 2027 World Cup. And with France hosting the World Cup in 18 months’ time, the future looks bright.
It always looked like it was going to be a two-horse race, and Ireland came unstuck against an unphased and formidable France side – recording their only loss of the tournament, which is no mean feat, when you consider Les Bleus dominance this time around. The Irish were oh-so close to breaking records too – their tally of 24 tries was the second-highest in Six Nations history, behind a 2001 England side who scored 29. Defensively they were solid – conceding just four tries in their five matches. There are plenty of positives on reflection, however, their biggest test will come during the Test series in New Zealand later this year.
By all accounts, it was a poor showing by the Red Rose, who scored the second-lowest number of tries – with only Italy recording fewer. For the second tournament in a row, England lost three of their five matches and understandably, both the players and head coach Eddie Jones have come under criticism from the media, pundits and former players alike. Former England captain and World Cup winner Lawrence Dallaglio led the charge, saying:
“There are some serious fault lines in that team and that squad and anyone who doesn’t think there is, is living in cloud cuckoo land.
“To score only two tries in three games and generally play the way they have played, fans have got every right to ask the question.”
Scotland also, only won two matches – and one of those came against Italy. It looked so promising by an exuberant start which saw them marginally dispatch of England at Murrayfield in their opening fixture, before petering out without little more than a whimper. The penultimate match against Ireland proved pivotal – a hammering 26-5 defeat – showed they were giving up without a fight. In recent years, matches between the two have been a lot closer – leading to suggestions that Scotland are going backwards, as well as pressure on captain Stuart Hogg to stand down.
While it’s fair to say the home nations head coaches are under pressure, arguably the Welsh coach Wayne Pivac has the most to worry about. Wales won just one match all campaign – narrowly beating Scotland 20-17 – and succumbed to a defeat to Italy in their final match, which was on home ground. Next up for Wales is their summer Test series to South Africa, and the world champions will be unforgiving.
While the Azzurri propped up the table once more, earning the wooden spoon for the seventh time in as many years – they can feel heartened by their performance, which saw them secure a first win in the tournament since 2015! And the future looks bright for Italy, with youngsters coming through – at the recent U20 Six Nations Championship, Italy finished fourth in the standings, recording wins over England, Scotland and Wales.