SIX NATIONS 2012: Preview

Six Nations preview: Your essential guide to the 2012 Championship

Ahead of the much-anticipated start of the 2012 Six Nations Championship, Sportsmail's Luke Benedict runs the rule over the strengths and weaknesses of each side.

Ready for battle: The Six Nations starts this weekend

Ready for battle: The Six Nations starts this weekend


Coach: Stuart Lancaster. As astute as he is unknown, they say the interim coach needs a Grand Slam just to keep the job.

Captain: Chris Robshaw, in charge for the first two games. Warrior-type flanker who has been the heartbeat of Harlequins’ pulsating domestic campaign.

World Cup fall-out: Nobody needs reminding. The question is, can the next four-year cycle take England from Queenstown to the Queen’s Honours List

Man to mark: David Strettle. The Premiership’s in-form winger loves to step inside, target slow-footed forwards and dance around them.

Biggest concern: That a young, inexperienced side will try to play high-risk expansive rugby on a Murrayfield quagmire.

Team motto: ‘What happens on tour, stays in the newspapers.’

Prediction: 4th. Form: WWWWL

Stat attack: Lancaster spent nine hours in one-to-one meetings with his players on his first day in charge.

Brains trust: England head into the Six Nations with Stuart Lancaster and Chris Robshaw as coach and captain

Brains trust: England head into the Six Nations with Stuart Lancaster and Chris Robshaw as coach and captain


Coach: Philippe Saint-Andre. A familiar face for Gloucester and Sale fans, ‘The Pig’ (an affectionate nickname, apparently) was also Jonny Wilkinson’s coach at Toulon.

Captain: Thierry Dusautoir. The IRB player of the year somehow kept his head in New Zealand while all around were screaming for revolution. Put in some astonishing performances.

World Cup fall-out: Farewell to mad professor Marc Lievremont and a warm welcome to prop David Attoub, (alleged) gouger extraordinaire.

Man to mark: Imanol Harinordoquy. The English-hating tour de force of France’s World Cup rebirth.

Biggest concern: That there’s always a player mutiny one defeat away.

Team motto: Depends entirely on what mood they are in.

Prediction: 1st. Form: LLWWL

Stat attack: Four of France’s five tournament wins have come in even years (2002, 2004, 2006, 2010); 2012 anyone

Star man: France captain Thierry Dusautoir was voted IRB player of the year

Star man: France captain Thierry Dusautoir was voted IRB player of the year

Man mountain: Stephen Ferris

Man mountain: Stephen Ferris


Coach: Declan Kidney. Softly-spoken maths teacher is under increasing pressure. Needs a calculator just to add up the ages of his creaking squad.

Captain: Paul O’Connell. In the absence of injured Brian O’Driscoll, Ireland have turned to the Lion King.

World Cup fall-out: Not a lot has changed and that’s the problem for an expectant Irish public. Conservative Kidney has stuck with familiar faces, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Man to mark: Stephen Ferris. At his best he plays like a grumpy, hungry bear who has just been woken from hibernation by a very loud drill.

Biggest concern: That they cannot translate the success of their provincial sides into Six Nations glory.

Team motto: ‘In Paul O’Connell we trust.’ (slightly amended since BOD’s injury).

Prediction: 3rd. Form: WWWWL.

Stat attack: Have won only one championship to France’s five, yet amassed only two points fewer in the all-time table.


Coach: Jacques Brunel. The third new face in the Six Nations coaching line-up. The Frenchman believes he can turn Italy into contenders in two seasons. Bless.

Captain: Sergio Parisse. The one-man team. A hurricane on a rugby pitch who deserves to lead his side out at the larger Stadio Olimpico.

World Cup fall-out: The new coach promises a more expansive game but questions remain as to whether the players, particularly the backs, can deliver it.

Man to mark: Martin Castrogiovanni. The Leicester caveman eats English props for breakfast. With Weetabix.

Biggest concern: A failure to match last year’s emotional home victory over France. Another wooden spoon lurks on the horizon.

Team motto: Give it to Sergio.

Prediction: 6th. Form: LLWWL.

Stat attack: Have finished at the foot of the table for nine of the last 12 seasons. Will surely do so again.

World class: Italy captain and No 8 Sergio Parisse (right)

World class: Italy captain and No 8 Sergio Parisse (right)

Leading from the front: Hooker Ross Ford

Leading from the front: Hooker Ross Ford


Coach: Andy Robinson. Already thrown his first verbal grenade when he called Delon Armitage ‘arrogant’.

Captain: Ross Ford. With Kelly Brown injured, Scotland turned to Ford. There’s no doubting his hooking qualities but he hardly has the leadership charisma of Rob Roy.

World Cup fall-out: Coming up short against England in Auckland will haunt the players and management but revenge may come as early as Saturday.

Man to mark: John Barclay. The most natural openside in the tournament looks back to his best. He’s key to unlocking Scotland’s potential.

Biggest concern: A gross lack of tries – not for want of trying. Scotland lack a cutting edge and without goal-kicking supremo Chris Paterson they may struggle for points.

Team motto: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, no-try, no-try and no-try again.’

Prediction: 5th. Form: WWWLL.

Stat attack: Scotland have scored 20 tries in 24 matches under Robinson, 0.8 per match. They have conceded 38.


Coach: Warren Gatland. The adopted Kiwi has signed a new deal to ensure this talented generation deliver on their promise.

Captain: Sam Warburton. One tip-tackle aside, the Home Nations player of the World Cup and, if he continues at this rate, a shoo-in for Lions captain next year.

World Cup fall-out: Post-tournament fatigue has brought an enormous injury list. Three of the World Cup tight five are missing and a first-choice flanker, fly-half and centre are major doubts.

Man to mark: George North. The monster wing could not look less like Shane Williams, but is just as dangerous.

Biggest concern: Back in Cardiff the young bloods will feel the pressure far more than they did on the other side of the world.

Team motto: ‘If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.’

Prediction: 2nd. Form: WWLLL.

Stat attack: Alain Rolland, the man who sent off Warburton in the World Cup semi-final, has been kept away from any Wales fixtures. Pure coincidence, of course.

Shoo-in: Sam Warburton is favourite to be Lions captain next year

Shoo-in: Sam Warburton is favourite to be Lions captain next year