For the 14th time, the Six Nations Championship gets underway; counting the previous Home Nations and Five Nations incarnations, this is the 119th edition of the annual Northern Hemisphere championship. Wales are the defending champions, England are confident due to their Autumns tests and the win against the All-Blacks, while France always have the talent to win it, but not always the will.
We haven’t had consecutive winners since 2006-2007, when France took both tournaments although without a Grand Slam. Eight out of the previous 13 tournaments were won without a loss, and the French, five times Six Nation champions, lead the all-time table as well.
England finished second in the 2012 Six Nations, their only loss coming at home against Wales after a late Scott Williams try. They’ve won 52 of their 96 matches with France; 72 of their 126 matches with Ireland; won all 18 of their meetings with Italy; 70 of their 130 matches with Scotland; 56 of their 123 matches against Wales.
Hookers – Dylan Hartley (Northampton), Tom Youngs (Leicester).
Props – Dan Cole (Leicester), Alex Crobisiero (London Irish), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Dave Wilson (Bath).
Locks – Joe Launchbury (London Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Geoff Parling (Leicester).
Flankers – Calum Clark (Northampton), Tom Croft (Leicester), James Haskell (London Wasps), Tom Johnson (Exeter), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Tom Wood (Northampton).
Number 8’s – Ben Morgan (Gloucester), Thomas Waldrom (Leicester).
Scrum-Halfs – Danny Care (Harlequins), Lee Dickson (Northampton), Ben Youngs (Leicester).
Fly-Halfs – Freddie Burns (Gloucester), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Toby Flood (Leicester).
Centres – Brad Barritt (Saracens), Jonathan Joseph (London Irish), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester).
Wingers – Chris Ashton (Saracens), Ben Foden (Northampton), David Strettle (Saracens).
Fullbacks – Mike Brown (Harlequins), Alex Goode (Saracens).
France had a very disappointing 2012 Six Nations campaign, which included a loss at home to England another draw there against Ireland. They haven’t beaten England in London in a Six Nations match since 2005; They’ve won three of their last four 6 nations visits to Dublin; They drew against Italy the last time they visited Rome; They haven’t lost to Scotland since February 2006; They haven’t lost to Wales at home since 2001.
Hookers – Guilhem Guirado (Perpignan), Benjamin Kayser (Clermont), Dimitri Szarzewski (Racing Metro).
Props – David Attoub (Stade Francais), Vincent Debaty (Clermont), Thomas Domingo (Clermont), Luc Ducalcon (Racing Metro), Yannick Forestier (Castres), Nicolas Mas (Perpignan).
Locks – Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Pascal Papé (Stade Francais), Jocelino Suta (Toulon), Romain Taofifénua (Perpignan).
Flankers – Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse), Wenceslas Lauret (Biarritz), Yannick Nyanga (Toulouse), Fulgence Ouedraogo (Montpellier).
Number 8’s – Damien Chouly (Clermont), Louis Picamoles (Toulouse).
Scrum-Halfs – Maxime Machenaud (Racing Metro), Morgan Parra (Clermont).
Fly-Halfs – Frédéric Michalak (Toulon), François Trinh-Duc (Montpellier).
Centres – Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon), Gaël Fickou (Toulouse), Florian Fritz (Toulouse), Maxime Mermoz (Toulon).
Wingers – Jean-Marcellin Buttin (Clermont), Vincent Clerc (Toulouse), Wesley Fofana (Clermont), Yoann Huget (Toulouse).
Fullbacks – Brice Dulin (Castres), Benjamin Fall (Racing Metro).
Ireland finished third in the 2012 six nations, winning two matches (Scotland & Italy), drawing with France and losing to England and Wales. They still haven’t lost to England at the Aviva stadium in the 6 nations; They’ve beaten France only once in the tournament over the last 10 years; They haven’t missed a win against Italy since 1997; They’ve won 8 of their last 9 matches against Scotland in the tournament; They’ve lost their last three matches against Wales.
Hookers – Rory Best (Ulster), Sean Cronin (Leinster), Mike Sherry (Munster).
Props – Michael Bent (Leinster), Tom Court (Ulster), Declan Fitzpatrick (Ulster), Cian Healy (Leinster), David Kilcoyne (Munster), Mike Ross (Leinster).
Locks – Mike McCarthy (Lock), Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Devin Toner (Leinster).
Flankers – Iain Henderson (Ulster), Chris Henry (Ulster), Kevin McLaughlin (Leinster), Sean O’Brien (Leinster), Peter O’Mahony (Munster).
Number 8’s – Jamie Heaslip (Leinster).
Scrum-Halfs – Conor Murray (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster).
Fly-Halfs – Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Ronan O’Gara (Munster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster).
Centres – Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Dave McSharry (Connacht), Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster).
Wingers – Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster), Craig Gilroy (Ulster), Simon Zebo (Munster).
Fullbacks – Rob Kearney (Leinster).
The Italians avoided the wooden spoon last year by beating Scotland. Anything better than losing at least four matches will be a success. They’ve never beaten England; They stunned France last time the two played in Rome (2011); They haven’t lost to Scotland in Rome since 2006; They’ve lost all of their 13 matches against Ireland in the six nations; They haven’t beaten Wales since 2007 in Rome.
Hookers – Leonardo Ghiraldini (Treviso), Davide Giazzon (Zebre).
Props – Martin Castrogiovanni (Leicester), Lorenzo Cittadini (Treviso), Alberto de Marchi (Treviso), Andrea Lo Cicero (Racing Metro), Michele Rizzo (Treviso).
Locks – Joshua Furno (Narbonne), Quintin Geldenhuys (Zebre), Francesco Minto (Treviso), Antonio Pavanello (Treviso).
Flankers – Robert Barbieri (Treviso), Paul Derbyshire (Treviso), Simone Favaro (Treviso), Alessandro Zanni (Treviso).
Number 8’s – Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais), Manoa Vosawai (Treviso).
Scrum-Halfs – Tobias Botes (Treviso), Edoardo Gori (Treviso).
Fly-Halfs – Kristopher Burton (Treviso), Luciano Orquera (Zebre).
Centres – Gonzalo Canale (La Rochelle), Gonzalo Garcia (Zebre), Andrea Masi (London Wasps), Alberto Sgarbi (Treviso).
Wingers – Tommaso Benvenuti (Treviso), Tommaso Iannone (Treviso), Giovanbattista Venditti (Zebre),
Fullbacks – Paolo Buso (Zebre), Luke McLean (Treviso).
Scotland finished the 2012 six nations as the worst team in the bunch, losing all five matches. Scotland haven’t beaten England in London since 1983; They’ve lost six in a row against France; They’ve only won once in their last nine matches against Ireland; They’re pretty much even with the Italians over the last 9 years; They’ve lost five in a row against Wales.
Hookers – Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Dougie Hall (Glasgow), Pat MacArthur (Glasgow).
Props – Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Alasdair Dickinson (Sale), Ryan Grant (Glasgow), Moray Low (Glasgow), Euan Murray (Worcester).
Locks – Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Richie Gray (Sale), Jim Hamilton (Gloucester), Alastair Kellock (Glasgow).
Flankers – Kelly Brown (Saracens), David Denton (Edinburgh), Chris Fusaro (Glasgow), Rob Harley (Glasgow), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Richie Vernon (Sale).
Number 8’s – Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow).
Scrum-Halfs – Sean Kennedy (Glasgow), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow).
Fly-Halfs – Tom Heathcote (Bath), Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow), Duncan Weir (Glasgow).
Centres – Alex Dunbar (Glasgow), Max Evans (Castres), Peter Horne (Glasgow), Matt Scott (Edinburgh).
Wingers – Sean Lamont (Glasgow), Sean Maitland (Glasgow), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow), Tim Visser (Edinburgh).
Fullbacks – Stuart Hogg (Glasgow), Peter Murchie (Glasgow).
Wales won the 2012 Six Nations with a Grand Slam, winning all five matches. They haven’t beaten England at the Millenium Stadium (in 6 nations) since 2009; They haven’t beaten France in Paris since 2005; They’ve won three in a row against Ireland; They’ve won their last five against Italy; They’ve won their last five against Scotland as well.
Hookers – Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Matthew Rees (Scarlets).
Props – Scott Andrews (Cardiff), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Paul James (Bath), Gethin Jenkins (Toulon), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Craig Mitchell (Exeter).
Locks – Ian Evans (Ospreys), Lou Reed (Cardiff), Andrew Coombs (Dragons), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), James King (Ospreys), Ollie Kohn (Harlequins).
Flankers – Josh Navidi (Cardiff), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Josh Turnbull (Scarlets), Sam Warburton (Cardiff).
Number 8’s – Toby Faletau (Dragons), Andries Pretorius (Cardiff).
Scrum-Halfs – Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Bayonne), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff).
Fly-Halfs – Dan Biggar (Ospreys), James Hook (Perpignan).
Centres – Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff), Scott Williams (Scarlets).
Wingers – Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff), George North (Scarlets), Eli Walker (Ospreys).
Fullbacks – Lee Byrne (Clermont), Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff), Liam Williams (Scarlets).