The 2021 Six Nations gets underway this weekend as England look to defend the 2020 crown they secured in October. The Red Rose begin the defence of their title with the Calcutta Cup against Scotland on Saturday evening. In his latest Express Sport column, England legend Jason Robinson offers his predictions for this year’s tournament.
The defending champions and justified title favourites. England have a relatively settled side and in Tom Curry a potential player of the championship.
England’s strength up front is formidable. I’m looking forward to seeing Ellis Genge starting against Scotland – he is just raw, he’s like a bull – as well as Beno Obano off the bench.
But they also have great talent out wide in Jonny May and Anthony Watson and it would be good to see them with the ball in their hands more often than in the autumn.
They become pretty dull to watch with their excessive kicking and I’d like to see more balance to their game in this championship.
I wouldn’t put my mortgage on it happening today though. England will be quite happy to turn the Calcutta Cup match into an arm wrestle as long as they win.
The decisive game will come in round four against a resurgent France but with home advantage, I think they will just edge it to take the championship.
Prediction – champions
The question always used to be asked ‘which France will turn up?’ but under Fabien Galthie and Shaun Edwards we pretty much know the answer now. The good one.
In Antoine Dupont they have the golden boy of French rugby who can do anything he wants on a rugby field and the scrum-half isn’t short on back-up. Once they get Virimi Vakitawa back from a knee injury they will be a serious force.
They are the most attractive side in the championship and have the perfect start with a gentle loosener in Italy.
After taking England to extra time in the Autumn Nations Cup with a team’s worth of players missing ,expect them to give Eddie Jones’s side a run for their money again for the title.
Prediction – 2nd
The addition of Paul O’Connell to Ireland’s coaching team is a smart one for many reasons but specifically because of his lineout knowhow.
Ireland were shaky in this area in the autumn and if they want to challenge the likes of England and France they need a solid platform to work from.
Andy Farrell is a winner and Ireland will be targeting the title. The return of Tadhg Furlong to the bench against Wales is a big positive as he is a world-class player.
For me though too much rests on the shoulders of Johnny Sexton. He’s 35 now and picks up a lot of injuries. It is asking a lot of Ireland’s captain to go the distance in every game in this championship.
Prediction – 3rd
Finn Russell’s return to the Six Nations is great for the championship and great for Scotland. He is a magician as he has proved in the past and for Racing 92.
The problem is that it is hard to conjure magic going backwards and I have a nagging doubt over whether the Scotland pack will be strong enough to give him the quality of possession he needs.
They won’t have enough to take down England but they will win games in this championship.
Prediction – 4th
This championship is make or break time for Wayne Pivac. He, and Wales, go into this Six Nations under the pump.
After a poor first year in charge he needs to put his stamp on the side. There is talent in the Wales squad but they just don’t seem to be gelling.
Losing Josh Adams, a wing I love, thrown out of camp after a coronavirus protocol breach was the last thing he needed on the eve of the championship.
The importance of the Ireland game cannot be overstated. If Wales lose an unforgiving schedule with three away games will look even more daunting.
Prediction – 5th
It was 2015 when they last won a game in the championship and however much everyone would like the terrible record to end soon I can’t see where a win is coming from in 2021.
Franco Smith has been brave in picking Stephen Varney and Paolo Garbisi – a pair of half-backs who are 19 and 20 respectively – but they need more experience around them.
It could be another long and fruitless championship for the Azzurri.
Prediction – 6th
Jason Robinson is writing for Express Sport in association with TXM Group (www.txmgroup.com).