The RBS 6 Nations is back. Hot on the heels of the best Rugby World Cup of all time, there is plenty to play for among the northern hemisphere teams who could not get past the quarter-final stage between them.
Wales and Gloucester Rugby hooker Richard Hibbard, who narrowly missed out on a place in Warren Gatland’s final squad for RWC 2015, believes that despite the failure to progress to the final four, there is plenty to be positive about for some teams.
“I really think Scotland did themselves proud and could hold their heads up high after the Rugby World Cup.” Hibbard said. “They had a great campaign through to the quarters and they could (should) have won that game.”
“That game” that Hibbard refers to is of course the dramatic quarter-final, which saw Scotland within one minute of beating eventual runners-up Australia. A heroic display ultimately ended in disappointment when Michael Cheika’s team were awarded a controversial late penalty, duly converted by Bernard Foley. “If they can push on again from that they can really take strides. I’d like to see where Scotland can go.” Hibbard continued.
And what of his former team Wales? “I think Wales also went really well too. I know the boys trained extremely hard for RWC 2015 and then took some serious injuries leading in to the tournament. But as a squad they pulled together and really fought hard throughout (as well as) getting that fantastic result at HQ (Twickenham).”
The 2016 edition of the 6 Nations sees two new coaches take the helm, with Eddie Jones in particular making early inroads to ensure the England team moves on quickly from the indignity of going out of their home RWC in the group stage. What does Hibbard see in England’s future, and does the slew of fresh faces give the tournament fresh life?
“England have got a new coach, who did such an amazing job with Japan in the RWC; He's got a fearsome reputation so it will be interesting to see their new style of play going forward. After a Rugby World Cup you get teams starting to blood new players through, so I look forward to watching the tournament and seeing these new young boys shine.”
No one will forget the final day of the 2015 Championship, when four teams could still technically win the title. Basketball-style rugby ensued, but does Hibbard think there will be a repeat?
“That final day was so unreal. Each game getting better and more dramatic with each result. It was a fantastic day for the profile of the game because of the style of the rugby played that day. So I do hope the finish is as exciting as last year. But I can honestly say the boys in the squads hope it's not going to be so tight going into that last day!”
The players may not want it, but from a neutral point of view, a repeat of the final day would be absolutely perfect.
Hibbz Quick Team Previews
Best experience playing vs England: Best moment beating them on the final day in 2013 to win the tournament 30-3.
Predicted Finish: Finish 4th - bedding of new coaches factor.
Best experience playing vs Ireland: Best moment is playing in front of the Irish crowd out there in any game as they are such passionate fans.
Predicted Finish: 2nd or 3rd – one of Ireland and Scotland to finish 2nd, with the other to follow in 3rd.
Best experience playing vs Scotland: Scoring my first try in the 6 nations up in Murrayfield.
Predicted Finish: 2nd or 3rd.
Best experience playing vs France: Going out there in 2013 and beating them on their own patch, with an arm wrestle of a game. Thrilling.
Predicted Finish: 5th
Best experience playing vs Italy: Matching and then getting on top of a very good Italian pack in their own back yard.
Predicted Finish: 6th
Best experience playing for Wales: Anytime pulling the shirt on.
Predicted Finish: Champions!
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