Friday, February 06, 2015

Six Nations 2015 - Likes & Dislikes



Everyone is giving their Six Nations predictions...so let me offer mine - my heart says Ireland and my head says Wales.

But rather than give you a long detailed post telling you exactly how I think each of the 1,200 minutes of action in this year's tournament is going to unfold (a lose-lose situation...if I turn out to be right it makes the comp seem boring and predictable and if I'm wrong, well, I'm wrong and that's never good haha), what say instead I point out three things about this year's tournament I like and three more which, well, not so much.

LIKES

The Competition Itself - They say you always remember your first...well, although I played the game from a young age, as with any pastime youngsters need heroes to look up to and back then, the Five Nations was the only show in town.  And I mean ONLY, at least on a regular basis.  No Celtic League, no Heineken Cup, not even an All-Ireland League.  You want senior rugby with a big crowd, you're talking four matches in the spring.

And despite several tweaks along the way like an extra nation and professionalism, this comp stands as a constant between now and then.  Doesn't mean I wouldn't be on for more tweaks and more on that later, but I'd certainly be against taking it off the calendar altogether should anyone ever dare to suggest it.

Ireland's Schedule this year - You might think this is because we have England and France at home but not so much - besides, the opposite didn't exact keep us from success last time around.

All week I have been hearing about how you never want to face Italy on your opening weekend.  Sure, that's a valid argument but allow me to make one to the contrary, and it's similar to one I made before we faced Italy in RWC2011.  We need to have ourselves in a mindset whereby we can not only retain our title now but at very least finish final four at RWC2015.  And if that is our mindset, we have to believe we can defeat the Italians, with all due respect to them of course.

In this season's Six Nations, my biggest worries on our schedule are England and Wales, so not only is it good that we play at least two matches before we face them, it is also good that we have a week off to prepare before we play each one.

The warmup weekend - The Wolfhounds v Saxons match last Friday wasn't exactly the best of spectacles for fans of either team, but for now anyway, it's definitely a fixture I'd like to see kept on the calendar.  The Six Nations is too big a tournament for the teams not to have at least one week of preseason, which is essentially what that match was.

In fact, I'd go further and alter the calendar a bit...instead of a "2-1-2" split with a weekend off in the gaps as things now stand, I'd go "2-2-2" with the first week free for matches like the one we saw down in Cork, and possibly room for friendlies with countries like Georgia and Romania down the line - this could also smooth the way for either an increase in numbers for the tournament or even, dare I say it, promotion and relegation.  Yeah, I know...I'm harping on changing everything again. Sorry, that's what I do ;-)

DISLIKES

Points Difference - Given this is how we won last year, I suppose I should keep my mouth shut.  Still, while I'm not sure bonus points are the way to go for this Six Nations, and also while I'm definitely not a fan of "sharing" the championship as in days of yore, I think having points difference as the number one tie-breaker is a bad idea.  
One of the many things that makes this competition unique is that although it has a "round robin" format, the 15 matches are meant to be cup finals.  Win the test match on the day, move on to try and win the next.  It's hard enough to manoeuvre 23 men around 80 minutes especially at the highest level without adding the worry over whether or not you've scored enough tries.  How could we solve this without bonus points?  Well for one thing we could add "result between 2 tied teams" ahead of points difference.  Wouldn't account for every situation I know, but IMO anyway it would help the "15 cup finals" cause.

TV Coverage of Women & U20's - I'm sure someone in telly-land has an explanation for why neither Ireland Women nor Ireland Under-20s are live this evening on national TV, but whatever it is, I'm not happy.

After all the hype around Ireland's amazing showing last August at the Women's World Cup I think it's a crying shame that we don't get to see Niamh Briggs lead the side out for the first time.  And if the reason has anything to do with the men's, women's and U20 championships being played at the same time there are simple solution for that...play them at some other stage of the season or even in the off-weeks AND negotiate separate TV deals so we're not bound by RTE's schedule.

The Calendar - Saving my biggest beef for last...and this is something I always, always harp on and I will continue harpin on it until something is done...The Six Nations is the biggest event in the European Rugby season and in my humble opinion, there's no better way to afford that status than to have it end the season.

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That's it for now.  Italy v Ireland preview to follow later, and I'm very much looking forward to watching Wales and England bosh each other tonight.  Bring it on... JLP
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