Six Nations 2023 – How each team is shaping up for the tournament
The 2023 Six Nations is arguably set to be the tournament’s most exciting edition since the last World Cup almost four years ago.
The top two sides in the world – Ireland and France – are involved.
Two teams – Wales and England – had late coaching switch-ups just before the tournament began.
Scotland came close to a historic win against New Zealand in November and even fresh-faced Italy might cause some trouble.
The next World Cup is just around the corner too, starting in France in September.
Here is a look at how each of the Six Nations are doing before the tournament begins.
Last year: 3rd
It’s been a tumultuous time for England since they finished third in the 2022 Six Nations, winning two of their five matches.
Overall last year, England won five of their 12 Tests and head coach Eddie Jones was sacked as a result, with Steve Borthwick taking over in mid-December.
Boos rang out at Twickenham as the hosts ended their autumn with defeat by South Africa and Borthwick has repeatedly suggested he wants to win the fans back.
“My job now is to prepare the England team to be the best team they can be and to make sure that every one of our supporters is really proud of what they see with this England team,” he told Rugby Union Daily.
Speaking on the same podcast, former England wing Ugo Monye added: “The most important thing for the players is a clear sense of direction – how they want to play. That is it.
“It’s a question that hasn’t been properly answered by that team for the last three years, especially when it comes to attack. The one thing that Steve Borthwick delivers is absolute clarity.”
Last year: 2nd
Ireland are top of the world rankings after a stellar autumn in which they beat South Africa, Fiji and Australia.
Their only defeat of the 2022 Six Nations came at the hands of eventual Grand Slam champions France on the second weekend.
On top of those results, Ireland count the World Rugby men’s player of the year among their ranks in flanker Josh van der Flier.
However, Ireland have flown this high before and their form dipped just in time for the 2019 World Cup.
They were top of the world rankings going into that tournament but, after losing to Japan in the pool stages, were easily beaten by New Zealand in the quarter-finals.
Andy Farrell, who took over as head coach after that World Cup, says things have changed since then.
“We’ve learned over a period of time to get better at rolling with the punches,” he said.
“Not everything is going to be going hunky-dory for you. Finding a way to win is something we’ve got better at.”
Last year: 4th
Scotland also had a promising autumn, threatening a historic victory against New Zealand before falling to a 31-23 defeat, and losing by one point to Australia.
They have bolstered their squad with the inclusion of former England wing Ruaridh McConnochie, who was eligible to switch nationalities after not being internationally capped for three years.
Munster fly-half Ben Healy, who represented Ireland at under-20 level, is another new face brought in to compete with Finn Russell after Adam Hastings sustained an injury.
Under head coach Gregor Townsend’s current contract, this will be his last Six Nations in charge.
During his tenure, Scotland have earned their first victory in Paris since 1999 and first at Twickenham since 1983.
“The one thing Scotland need to strive for is consistency,” Monye said.
“If they can find that, they can really challenge with the best in the world.”
Last year: 5th
Wales had a tough 2022 under Wayne Pivac, losing at home to Italy and Georgia, which led to the return of successful former head coach Warren Gatland in December.
Gatland describes the Six Nations as a “special” tournament with an “unbelievable atmosphere” and it is little wonder he is a fan given he has won the tournament four times, including three Grand Slams, with Wales.
Gatland has chosen Ken Owens as his captain and says he won’t be “experimenting” for the World Cup during the Six Nations because of how important the tournament is to his side.
“If you’d asked me three or four weeks ago I’d have said we have a lot of work to do, but I’ve been really encouraged by the form of the regions in Europe the last few weeks,” he added.
“The Ospreys have been playing well. They’ve had a couple of good wins against Montpellier and against Leicester away from home.
“There are some talented young players coming through.”
Last year: 1st
France won a first Grand Slam for 12 years in 2022 and carried their superb form into a 13-match winning streak.
No men’s side has ever won back-to-back Grand Slams before and France have a tough road ahead, having to play round two in Dublin and face England at Twickenham in round four.
Beyond this tournament, they have