Ray North’s Six Nations Preview

by Ray_North on February 2, 2012

After racism, hooliganism, tax evasion, homophobia and more racism, it’s quite nice to get away from football and let myself sink into the world of god’s own game – Rugby Union. No, I make no apologies – I like my football, but Rugby is Ray North’s passion.

To me the Six Nations is usually a mixture of heartache and headache – but, that’s because I’m Welsh, and we travel in expectation and drink in frustration.

Anyway enough of that – what’s going to happen this year?

Well, let’s start with the English. For the first time in years I’m actually quite looking forward to watching England this year. For the first time since the 1980′s they enter the competition with no great expectations. They have a very inexperienced team, an unknown coach and a captain with only one cap to his name. For once, they can’t fall back on the power of a massive well drilled pack who provoke fear before they’ve even left their changing room. Good say those of us who are non-Saxons, because it wouldn’t do England any harm to learn a bit of humility. But, how will they get on? It’s a difficult one to call – I think that they’ll struggle at Murrayfield, where the Scottish will thrive in the cold weather with a partisan crowd behind; they may also struggle against the Irish. I fancy, though, that they will eventually start to play and that might be bad news for France and Wales. Players to watch – David Strettle is a classy wing and the new centre Owen Farrell will be as steely and motivated as his father the great Rugby League stand-off was. My prediction – England 4th.

So what about their first opponents – Scotland. This has got be Scotland’s year, surely to god, we’ve been predicting it for years, they must eventually be able to string a few results together. Their pack looks awesome – with an excellent front five and a good back row who will run all day long. Their weakness will be at half-back where Dan Parks is not international class and may struggle to get a potentially good backline going. I predict a few roller-coaster matches for the Scottish who will struggle to kill teams off. Players to watch – Eeuan Murray, looks like coming back into form, whilst Richie Gray is still my favourite second row forward around. My Prediction – 2nd.

Italy are another team who have looked capable over the last few years of putting together some good wins, but have failed to deliver. As ever they will win their ball at set-piece and in Sergio Parisse, they have perhaps the best back-row forward in the Northern Hemisphere. The problem for Italy is their perennial inability to turn possession into points – it’s all very well to have a massive pack, but, if your backs are a bit pedestrian, then you won’t win too many games. Players to watch – the beardy prop, Castrogioavanni and Parisse (of course), I’m also interested in the new scrum half Bordi. My prediction – 6th.

Italy open against the French, who were woeful during the world cup and yet still managed to get to the final, where they didn’t disgrace themselves. As ever they will win more than they lose and as ever they will show flashes of genius interposed with moments of madness. They have a new coach in Phillipe Saint Andre who will definitely hone a more cohesive unit than the rabble that went to the world cup. Players to watch – Thierry Dussatoir, who was a revelation during the world cup, and new centre Wesley Fofana, who looks very big and very quick. My prediction – 3rd.

So what about Wales, my beloved Wales? How frustrating to be Welsh! The world cup was almost brilliant, until we lost three players Adam Jones, Sam Warburton and Rhys Priestland. Sadly, on Sunday although Warburton and Jones are fit, our other world class prop Gethin Jenkins, both second rows, Priestland and Jamie Roberts are all doubtful, whilst the wonderful Shane Williams has retired from duty. Wales, struggle to replace world class players like that, and sadly, will struggle against a dauntingly good Irish side in Dublin, after that, I fear that a crisis of confidence, could see this season prove to be the false dawn after the world cup hope. Players to watch – new wing Alex Cuthbert (an even bigger faster wing than George North so I’m told) and the wonderful number 8 Toby Faletau (who just gets better and better), whilst Sam Warburton will want to make up for being sent off in the world cup semi-final. Prediction 5th.

So finally the Irish – my favourites for the title. The Irish have only one player missing, alright that player just happens to Brian O’Driscoll, but in Keith Earls they have a more than adequate replacement. Their front row won’t let them down, their second row has been around forever and in a back row of Heaslip, O’Brian and Ferris is simply the best combination around. Sexton is prone to flakiness, but so was O’Gara and they haven’t done bad with him – I say, don’t look further than Ireland. Players to watch out for – prop Cian Healy was exceptional in the world cup (until he came up against Adam Jones actually), whilst Sean O’Brian is going to get better and better. My prediction – 1st and possibly a grand slam to boot.

My predictions:
1. Ireland
2. Scotland
3. France
4. England
5. Wales
6. Italy

Let the heartache begin.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlie East-West February 3, 2012 at 12:18 pm

An old family friend (David Rollo) who was capped 40 times by Scotland visited Scotland’s last training session at St Andrews recently. He came back in raptures about what he had just seen. The new young players were fantastic, and the general motivation and team spirit was superb.

Combine this with Edinburgh and Glasgow playing superb rugby in the Heineken Cup, and we could be on the cusp of witnessing a really powerful Scotland side.

Scotland are ready. I predict that Scotland will win a Grand Slam this year…

Prediction:
1. Scotland
2. France
3. Ireland
4. Wales
5. England
6. Italy

As John Cleese once famously said:- ‘It’s not the despair. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand’

Reply

Paul dearing February 3, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Ray, you eternal pessimist you! However, this time I think you could be right, although a bit harsh. Wales, I fear, will struggle to live up to the expectations of the world cup. This years six nations will be poorer for the absence of Shane Williams but when all is said and written it ultimately comes down to February and March and cold and rain and hair standing on the back of your neck, a smile on your face when everyone else is miserable and shivering. It’s friendship, respect, banter hip flasks from Irish or French fans who will mock laugh and sing with you. It’s violence … On the field, it’s dancing till all hours in dodgy clubs with the local tipple all down your front. I predict upsets galore but Ireland first, France second and then it is too hard to call. In the words of Tom Jones, ” it’s not unusual” but it is life enhancing…..

Reply

Ray_North February 3, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Well said Paul Dearing!

Reply

Jackie_South February 5, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Should have known – Ray’s uncanny predictions strike again!

Is this all a cunning plan by Ray to predict a bad outcome for Wales knowing that the outcome from his tea-leaf reading is almost always the opposite!

Reply

Ray_North February 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm

Yes, I’ve got to hold my hands up! I know nothing about Rugby, football, in fact anything! My resignation will be in the post!

Reply

David Blythin February 6, 2012 at 1:32 am

Even ex-ante, Wales 5th/4th and Scotland 2nd/1st looked like nonsense. Wales 3 home games against the blues, check the recent history. And why such confidence in Scotland ? Salmond doesn’t play rugby these days. I would’ve had France/Ireland followed by Wales, given our injuries. Now? Slam decider against France on St Patrick’s Day…..unless the admirable Lancaster transforms his youths. And…Bradley Davies’ yellow should have been a red, illustrating why Warburton’s red should have been a yellow. Ferris should not have got a yellow, it was just a penalty. Apart from that, I do rate our team.

Reply

Ray_North February 6, 2012 at 9:21 am

Ok – I feel the need to defend my completely woeful predictions – first, one can assume that there was a certain amount of ‘fear the worst, and you won’t be disappointed’ in my pessimistic view of Wales chances, together with the fact that when I wrote the piece, it didn’t look as though messrs. Roberts and Priestland would be fit – still they were even better than I’d dared hope.
As for Scotland – I am still in a state of shock as to how they didn’t manage to beat a rather pedestrian English team – regardless of inexperience, that team looked very slow. If Scotland had had an outside half worthy of the name (Parks was disastrous for them on Saturday, apart from his charged down kick, his positional kicking was diabolical), and been composed enough to catch the ball, they would have won.
Anyway – I’m not making any predictions for the rest of the tournament (Wales for the Triple Crown!)

Reply

Charlie East-West February 9, 2012 at 4:11 pm

So much for Scotland…

I agree with Ray. We have a great bunch of forwards and a bunch of dyspraxia ridden backs.

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: