Fri 11 Jan 2019 | 11:48

Six Nations Countdown: Land of My Fathers

Six Nations Countdown: Land of My Fathers
Fri 11 Jan 2019 | 11:48
Six Nations Countdown: Land of My Fathers
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Oh to be in Cardiff when Six Nations is there. Oh to hear them sing Land of My Fathers and Cwm Rhondda. Oh to see my favourites anthem singer in full passion, pride and determination, mouth open wide – Alun Wyn Jones.

The second Cardiff fixture in the Six Nations this year is on the day before St Patrick’s Day, when Ireland come to play. It could just decide who wins the 2019 Six Nations Championship, still the most exciting of all rugby competitions.

And even if it isn’t the decider, it will be a wonderful occasion.

Can Wales? Can they win the Six Nations? The answer is a loud yes. After all only England’s has a more successful history in the International Championship and only England is ranked above them by World Rugby.

Wales won the International Championship 27 times, with 11 Grand Slams and 20 Triple Crowns.

The last time they won the championship was in 2013, their last Grand Slam in 2012.

In its rankings, World Rugby has Ireland second, England third and Wales fourth. Scotland is seventh, France eighth and Italy 16th.

They have home ground advantage for both of their toughest matches – against England and then against Ireland, the only teams that beat them in 2018.

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Welsh Six Nations Fixtures in 2019

Wales open their 2019 Six Nations when they play France in Paris on the opening day of the championship.

1 February 2019
France vs Wales at Stade de France

9 February 2019
Italy vs Wales at Stadio Olimpico

23 February 2019
Wales vs England at Principality Stadium

9 Mar 2019
Scotland vs Wales at Murrayfield

16 March 2019
Wales vs Ireland at Principality Stadium

Players

Wales has had a tough time with injuries of late, the toughest being the concussion of Leigh Halfpenny, the fullback who kicks a long way on defence, and to great effect at goal, and a brave fullback with the derringdo and vision to counterattack with zest.

He was knock down, after he had kicked the ball, by Samu Kerevi seven minutes before the end of the Wallaby match. Kerevi crashed into Halfpenny shoulder first and making contact with his head. Kerevi was not penalised in any way as the referee decided that it was a matter of momentum and not “deliberate foul play”. (A lot of debate there.) Halfpenny, who has had issues with concussion in the past, is unlikely to be available for Wales three months later. That is a massive blow.

There are many other players who have been troubled by injuries late in 2018 – Liam Williams, Bradley Davies, Dan Lydiate, Ross Moriarty, James Davies, Ollie Griffiths, Nicky Smith, Rhys Patchell, Jarrod Evans, Jake Ball, Taulupe Faletau, Ellis Jenkins and Aaron Shingler. That’s a long sick list. And it may not be all with the tough competitions still being played in Europe this month.

But they still have Jonathan Davies, regarded by many as the best outside centre in the world, lively Gareth Davies at scrumhalf with the other Gareth, Gareth Anscombe at flyhalf, a man who has grown in creativity, George North on the wing, powerful even though not quite the man he used to be, industrious Justin Tuperic and, of course, Alun Wyn Jones to lead the side. And let’s see who gets let off from injury.

Coach

Like Ireland with Joe Schmidt, Wales have a well-entrenched, highly acceptable coach in Warren Gatland, like Schmidt a New Zealander

Welsh Results in 2018

In 2018, Wales played 12 matches, winning 10 and losing just two. The two they lost were to England and Ireland in last years Six Nations, both away matches. This year those will be home matches.

Wales beat Scotland 34-7 in Cardiff
Wales lost to England 12-6 at Twickenham
Wales lost to Ireland 37-27 in Dublin
Wales beat Italy 38-14 in Cardiff
Wales beat France 14-13 in Cardiff
Wales beat South Africa in Washington, USA
Wales beat Argentina 23-10 in San Juan
Wales beat Argentina 30-12 in Sante Fe
Wales beat Scotland 21-10 in Cardiff
Wales beat Australia 9-6 in Cardiff
Wales beat Tonga 74-24 in Cardiff
Wales beat South Africa 20-11 in Cardiff

Prediction: Wales will win four matches, lose to Ireland on the last day and come second. A different outcome is entirely possible.

By Paul Dobson
@rugby365com

Six Nations Round One

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Six Nations Countdown: Land Of My Fathers | Rugby365