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Friday, February 03, 2006

 

Six Nations: The Guide


The 2006 Six Nations kicks off tomorrow with England facing Wales at Twickenham and Ireland facing Italy at Lansdowne Road whilst on Sunday the Scots face France at Murrayfield.

Here Rugga World gives you a brief guide to the 6 nations involved.

England

The most successful side in the history of the championship with 25 outright titles, including 12 Grand Slams.

Captain: Martin Corry. The Leicester number eight was made captain during the 2005 campaign, when Jason Robinson was injured, and is highly regarded as an astute and robust leader

Coach: Andy Robinson. The former England flanker was an assistant to Sir Clive Woodward before taking over the reins in the autumn of 2004 But the former Bath player and coach has endured two difficult years. Last season's defeat to Wales began a poor campaign and England must improve on their two wins and three defeats

Star man: Charlie Hodgson. Unsure and out-of-sorts last season, the fly-half blossomed on tour with the Lions midweek side in New Zealand.

While solid in the autumn internationals, he has been instrumental in Sale's rise to the top of the Guinness Premiership and progress to the Heineken Cup quarter-finals

France


The French won their 14th title, and eighth Grand Slam, in 2004 and are hot favourites to regain the championship, despite their stunning capitulation to Wales at Stade de France last season.

Captain: Fabien Pelous. The imposing Toulouse lock will be fresh after serving a nine-week ban for elbowing Australian hooker Brendan Cannon. Chasing his fourth Slam

Coach: Bernard Laporte.

The former Stade Francais coach is in his seventh season in charge and is developing a side capable of winning next year's World Cup, on home soil

Star man: Florian Fritz.

The Toulouse 22-year-old was voted 2005 Player of the Year in the French championship... ...where he forms a potent midfield partnership with Yannick Jauzion for the European champions. Together they could take the Six Nations by storm as the French build towards a World Cup challenge on home soil

Ireland

The Irish play their last Six Nations rugby at Lansdowne Road before proposed redevelopment is made to one of the game's spiritual homes in 2007

Captain: Brian O'Driscoll. The Leinsterman's lead-by-example style has proven inspirational for Ireland and the responsibility has done nothing to diminish his game-breaking threat.

He was made Lions captain for the tour of New Zealand and will be determined to reclaim his position as the world's best centre after recovering from the dislocated shoulder that wrecked his tour

Star man: David Wallace. The Munster flanker has shown oustanding form in this season's Heineken Cup.

Brother of two former British Lions, winger Richard and prop Paul, his phenomenal work rate and superb ball skills should at last cement him a place in the Irish side

Coach: Eddie O'Sullivan. Under pressure for employing a conservative game plan that has produced limited success since he was placed in charge in 2002.

But O'Driscoll's return to form and some inspired Heineken Cup performances from Munster and Leinster should put him in good heart for the championship

Italy

Joined the championship in 2000 but have won only three matches - two against Scotland (2000, 2004) and one against Wales (2003). Suffered third whitewash last year

Captain: Marco Bortolami. At 22, the lock forward became the youngest player to captain Italy

Coach: Pierre Berbizier.

France's most-capped scrum-half took over from John Kirwan after last year's Six Nations.

He coached France for three years and steered Les Bleus to the 1993 Five Nations title

Star man: Andrea Lo Cicero.

The Sicilian forms the cornerstone of Italy's pack. One of the most powerful scrummagers in the championship

Scotland

Won the last-ever Five Nations title in 1999 but they have struggled since, a third place in 2001 their best Six Nations performance.

Coach: Frank Hadden, the former Edinburgh coach, took over from Australian Matt Williams in September

After autumn defeats to Argentina and New Zealand, Hadden's immediate target is a vast improvement on heavy home defeats to Ireland (40-13) and Wales (46-22) in last season's championship

Captain: Jason White.

The Sale flanker took on the captaincy last autumn following Jon Petrie's injury and Hadden feels the responsibility brings the best out in him as a player

Star man: Simon Taylor.

The Glasgow number eight is unlucky with injury but he is also one of Scotland's genuinely world-class players

Wales

Dominated the 1970s, when they won six Triple Crowns, five titles and three Grand Slams.

Finally ended their long wait for repeat glory last season when their dynamic brand of rugby brought them the championship and a clean sweep

Coach: Mike Ruddock.

Awarded the OBE in the New Year's Honours after becoming the first Welsh coach in 27 years to win the Grand Slam - and he did not even apply for the job

Captain: Gareth Thomas.

Mike Ruddock describes his decision to give 'Alfie' the captaincy as the best he has made as coach.

Thomas's unique style of leadership inspired Wales to glory last season and was recognised by the Lions in the summer

Star man: Dwayne Peel.

First-choice Lions scrum-half, Wales missed him badly when he was injured in the autumn.

Sparks the Welsh backs with quick and creative service and links well with fly-half Stephen Jones

The contenders

Wales defend their title, won by a dazzling 2005 Grand Slam, in rugby union's oldest international tournament.

But, beset by injuries, will Gareth Thomas and his men maintain the winning touch?

The looming presence of favourites France, Ireland under a resurgent Brian O'Driscoll, and the juggernaut power of England, all pose a major threat to the champions.

Meanwhile, Scotland, in their first Six Nations under their new coach, and Italy, fielding their youngest ever captain, hope to spring a shock or two.

Information source: The Daily Telegraph
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