The countdown is on, as the sides from the Northern Hemisphere will look to sharpen up on their game plans, test out combinations and look to see who will make out their World Cup teams.
By: Benedict Chanakira
With England hosting the show piece this year the onus is on the Northern Hemisphere sides to fully challenge and grab the opportunity of a World Cup. The conditions, referees and schedule seems to favour them.
The Six Nations in 2014 saw a tournament only decided on the final day with three teams still able to have won it. Ireland won it at the end as a perfect swan song for arguably the greatest 13 in the modern era of rugby, Brian O’Driscoll.
England won the Triple Crown, beating all the other home nations but failed to win the Six Nations. Italy was also in the record books for the most tackles in a test match as they made 208!
What do we expect in the 2015 edition of the RBS Six Nations?
For England there will be no better way to prepare for the World Cup with a challenging schedule in this tournament. England will visit Cardiff and Dublin this year, where Wales and Ireland have been formidable.
The Welsh clash will be special considering they will vie for a spot at the World Cup in their group of death.
With Manu Tuilagi likely to feature in the tournament after months out due to injury, one would hope the big centre stays fit as he will be an integral part of Stuart Lancaster’s plans.
Injuries have hampered their progress over the last four to five months, with young George Ford impressing in the wings as an understudy to the established Owen Farrell.
Farrell had a tough autumn series so it will be key to give Ford a few chances, and a possible call to Danny Cipriani who has been in top form. He showed glimpses of brilliance in the autumn series and it will benefit England to allow the understudies starts against the tough Italians or the arch-rivals Scotland.
One selection we will all be looking forward too is the inclusion of Sam Burgess who is adapting steadily and well to Rugby Union.
What is his best position? In the centres or in the back row? Could he be the English’s version of Sonny Bill Williams? Another x-factor! A call up to International rugby is inevitable.
Is it Saxons first or straight to the Roses?
The best back row player up North has to be Steffon Armitage. Will the RFU find a way to accommodate him, or should the player find a way to meet the RFU requirements?
England will find it tough to win this tournament and are likely to replicate last years’ runners up finish. The two away trips to Wales and Ireland seem beyond them.
Les Bleus!! The French continue to be the unknown factor in any tournament. Will they be able to take their autumn series form into the event where they won two out of their three games?
France managed to destroy Fiji, beat Australia and will look to win the Six Nations for the first time since 2010.
Could Sebastien Tillous-Borde and Camille Lopez be the halfback pairing France have sought out for so long? Morgan Parra will boast the side which could see a halfback merry go round again.
Despite a poor finish to the tour the French showed a lot of their swagger. With whispers going about in France that Jake “unloyal” White is a possible option for the job post Six Nations or maybe post World Cup.
If there is anyone capable of bringing the best out of the French, and show us what they are about in a consistent manner, then Jake is the man.
Enough about him, France will unlikely win the Six Nations due to their inconsistency but this will be another tournament where they will play a part in deciding who wins the show piece.
Will look to improve on their fourth spot last season. Third will be their best bet.
A favorable fixture list with a morale boosting win over powerhouse South Africa, Wales can go into this tournament with their tails up and their eyes firmly set on winning the crown.
Two home fixture against England and Ireland will decide how this tournament will end up. What they just cannot seem to do is play a full 80 minute match.
Should the game have been played for 60-70 minutes the Welsh would be untouchable unless they only play then for 50 minute.
Wales will look to answer the question; have they developed the mental fortitude to win against the big sides. With rhythm returning to their play, the same can be said of their centre Jamie Roberts who is starting to get back to his best.
Will his combination with Dan Biggar prove the difference?
With Gareth Anscombe also in the frame as an unknown factor the Welsh have more going for than their opponents.
This tournament will explain their mental capacity to the rugby world.
Wales will decide the fate of the Six Nations as they host two matches against the English and Irish. Two wins will make them outright favourites. Easy fixture list.
They continue to improve and they are building toward the Rugby World Cup.
Will the 2015 Six Nations be any different?
Their Six Nations record has been appalling in the last 4 years with just five wins in twenty-five games. They show a lot of courage and are brave but continue to be beaten by the same bug as most teams; inconsistency.
One performance that left all Scots proud as they pushed the All Blacks all the way last year, albeit a weak New New Zealand side.
The Scots boast strength in their forward pack in the form of the Gray brothers, Adam Ashe and Ross Ford.
With Vern Cotter at the helm, they are bullish about their title chances, with Ford recently speaking about their quality, form and title credentials.
It will take a lot as the side managed a solitary, last-gasp win over Italy. The captain Greig Laidlaw, Sean Lamont and the rest of the experienced contingent are enjoying some form and it bodes well for Scotland this year.
With the majority of the squad coming from a Glasgow side that is impressive in the Pro12, a winning culture will surely be there.
An opening round trip to France to get them up and running. What tone will they set?
No title since 1999, does not look like changing. Scotland look like claiming a big scalp. Will do well to avoid finishing below fourth.
The champions. The year 2014 was the perfect year for the Irish. Every game looked like they reached the end of a rainbow.
The men in green were impressive and showed a lot of class from the Six Nations to an impressive autumn series which saw them rise to third in the world rankings.
They could do so little wrong and saw growing call about their chances of winning the World Cup. Is it possible? Yes it is, but 2015 could be too early.
Teams struggle in their second season with expectations raised few teams have managed this level of consistency with New Zealand the only side to manage such a level of excellence.
Ireland are outright favorites to win the Six Nations. They defend exceptionally well, have a balance to their play and an efficient forward pack. The line out and driving maul a strong weapon.
Will be interesting how they will fare at a packed Olimpico Stadium in Rome on the opening round. Jonathan Sexton will be missing it which will allow Ian Madigan, Paddy Jackson or Ian Keatley set to get the nod.
On the Irish books, no youngster has impressed more than Connacht’s Rob Henshaw. One who has raised his hand and will probably move to Leinster after a big couple of months.
A defining season for the youngster ahead. All Irish sides are in the top half of the Pro12 and continue to stake a claim for the title.
The Italians have more wooden spoons than most sides in the competition since their addition.
Fond memories will go back to the 2013 campaign which saw the side put in an impressive two scalps over France and Ireland. The side had an impressive showing against South Africa last year before a Bryan Habana try sealed the match.
Despite spirited performances the Italians always fall on the last hurdle. With their best finish being fourth in 2013, one has to wonder what their chances in the 2015 campaign are.
The only positive is that their home turf is difficult for visiting teams and could see some clashes decided this year.
With a fading scrum, youth integration and the coming to an end of the careers of stalwarts this could be the Italian swan song, go the likes of Martin Castrogiovanni ,Martin Aguero, Lorenzo Cittadini and Sergio Parisse to name a few.
Progress remains slow but the Italians just not world beaters yet.
Wooden spoon! An upset will be appreciated to spice up the tournament. Maybe a win in their opening game against Ireland at home? No.