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6 Nations Players to Watch

6 nations

England

Elliot Daly (age: 24, height: 6ft, weight: 15st 10lbs)

With eight caps to his name, Daly is certainly not an unknown, but he has yet to show his full talents at international level. A clear yet unfortunate red card against Argentina saw his Autumn Internationals cut short, but he is likely to feature strongly in the 6 Nations.

Blessed with searing pace, solid defence, great hands and the ability to step off both feet, Daly can play centre, wing or fullback. He can also bang over penalties from approaching 10m inside his own half, which can seriously demoralise the opposition. 2017 could be the year he becomes a star.

Ireland

Garry Ringrose (age: 21, height: 6ft 1in, weight, 14st 7lbs)

If there’s one cross in world rugby that you wouldn’t want a 21-year old to bear, it would to be touted as the heir apparent to the incomparable Brian O’Driscoll. As if finding your feet as an international centre isn’t hard enough, it is exactly what Garry Ringrose is having to cope with.

The good news, however, is that he may well live up to expectations. In addition to a running style remarkable reminiscent of the great BOD, Ringrose has pace, all the required skills and a real nose for the try line.

Scotland

Jonny Gray (age: 22, height 6ft 6ins, weight 18st 10lbs)

It’s hard to believe, given his size, that Jonny is comfortably the smaller of Scotland’s Gray brothers, with the older, 60-capped Richie hitting 6ft 10ins in his socks and almost 20 stone. Not that it’s held Jonny back, as he’s widely being tipped to make this year’s Lions tour to New Zealand.

Gray is the complete modern lock, with decent hands and good mobility complementing the basics of providing grunt at scrum time and reliable line-out ball. His work rate, however, is his strongest suit. His stats for hitting breakdowns and completing tackles are up there with the very best back-row forwards. Expect to see some world-class performances from him in the upcoming tournament.

Wales

Justin Tipuric (age: 27, height: 6ft 2in, weight: 16st 1lb)

Tipuric has won 46 caps since his 2011 international debut, but he has never managed to cement himself as first choice. That may change for the coming 6 Nations, with Tipuric’s skills as a link man being cited by many rugby sages west of the border as exactly what the national side needs to revive an increasingly predictable attacking game.

France

Baptiste Serin (age: 20, height: 5ft 11ins, weight 12st)

With the skill-set to occasionally play fullback for his club, Bordeaux Bègles, the young scrum-half might just be the spark to ignite France’s backline. Blessed with incredible sleight of hand and an enormous boot, Serin already has a highlights reel full of magical moments. If he gets the nod for France in this year’s 6 Nations tournament, make sure you watch him very, very closely.

Italy

Michele Campagnaro (age: 23, height: 6ft, weight: 15st 8lbs)

Ignoring the obvious choice of Italy’s talismanic Sergio Parisse, we’ve gone for Exeter’s bullocking young centre, Michele Campagnaro. He has won man-of-the-match awards for Italy, but never a 6 Nations match. If 2017 is to be the year Campagnaro breaks his 6 Nations duck, Italy will need him to be at his powerful best in attack and defence.

Opening round fixtures

Scotland vs Ireland, Sat 4th Feb, 2.25pm

Ireland won this fixture by 10 points in Dublin last year, a difference that home advantage could easily reverse in Scotland’s favour. Both teams having progressed since then, making it a difficult match to call.

Irelands inspiring displays against New Zealand, allied to a squad with arguably more strength in depth, make them favourites, but they’ll doubtless have to weather a Scottish storm if they’re to win at Murrayfield.

England vs France, Sat 4th Feb, 4.50pm

England have become a relentless force under Eddie Jones, demanding all teams who face them to push their physical limits until the final whistle, and they’ll be highly fancied to win handsomely at home against a France team long in transition.

France, however, utterly destroyed the Wallaby scrum last autumn, with New Zealand’s pack fairing only slightly better in a game where France rediscovered their attacking verve in a close loss. Maybe chickens should not be counted just yet..?

Italy vs Wales, Sun 5th Feb, 2pm

Wales’ attack has not fired for some months and they were roundly slated by home supporters for some lacklustre displays during the autumn. Boasting a squad dripping with top quality players, they will hope there is some truth behind the old adage, ‘Form is temporary, class is permanent’.

Italy have also been struggling for form, with a first, historic win over the weakest team to ever leave South Africa offering them a rare moment in the sun. New coach Conor O’Shea has expressed his ambitions to make them fitter and more competitive, but it would still be a huge upset if they manage to beat the visiting Welsh team.

Stadia

Twickenham

Location: London, England

Capacity: 82,000

First Rugby International hosted: England v Wales, January 1910

Interesting fact: Twickenham is the world’s biggest dedicated rugby stadium and the fourth largest stadium in Europe.

Principality Stadium

Location: Cardiff, Wales

Capacity: 74,500

First Rugby International hosted: Wales v South Africa, June 1999

Interesting fact: The Principality Stadium is the second-largest stadium in the world with a fully retractable roof, hosting 770,000 paying visitors each year.

Stade de France

Location: Paris, France

Capacity: 81,388

First Rugby International hosted: France v England, February 1998

Interesting fact: The multi-sport stadium was initially built specifically to host the 1998 FIFA World Cup and features a stand that can be retracted to uncover a section of the athletics track.

Stadio Olimpico

Location: Rome, Italy

Capacity: 70,634

First Rugby International hosted: Italy v England, February 2012

Interesting fact: Owned by the Italian National Olympic Committee, Stadio Olimpico’s construction was initiated by the regime of Mussolini, with building taking place between 1928 and 1950.  Early football crowds approached 100,000.

Aviva Stadium

Location: Dublin, Ireland

Capacity: 51,700

First Rugby International hosted: Ireland v South Africa, November 2010

Interesting fact: The Aviva Stadium was built on the site of the old Lansdowne Road Stadium, which had been hosting rugby matches since 1876.

Murrayfield

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

Capacity: 67,800

First Rugby International hosted: Scotland v England, March 1925

Interesting fact: Murrayfield was redeveloped to an all-seater stadium in 1994, but, years before, Murrayfield could host 104,000 rugby fans, as it did for their game against England in 1975 (setting a world record that stood for 24 years).

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England’s Autumn Internationals

Autumn International - Rugby

A year can be a long time in rugby…

This time last year, England were heading towards a shock early exit from their home World Cup.  Today, just 10 months into Eddie Jones tenure as coach, they lie second in the world rankings and are chomping at the bit at the prospect of extending their unbeaten run on the hallowed turf of Twickenham.

England’s annual Autumn Internationals have long been one of the sport’s most celebrated showpieces and this year’s schedule looks set for some real fireworks.  With South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia all due to run out at Twickenham, it’s a good job the home side have found some serious form.

It’s fair to assume that any realists at England Rugby would have accepted two wins out of four when these fixtures were announced late last year, but a 6 Nations Grand Slam and an unbeaten tour of Australia have changed the landscape dramatically and nothing less than a clean sweep of victories will suffice for the home fans.

Engage are offering clients corporate hospitality packages for these sell-out events, so, to whet your appetite, here is a bit of background information on all the match-ups.

England vs South Africa, Saturday 12th November

The South Africans look to be in a transitional period, with a new coach trying to establish his systems in a squad that, despite it containing many established world-class players, has a fresh look about it.

England will be buoyed by the Boks’ losses to Ireland and Argentina in recent months, but there is no prouder rugby nation and the chance to put one over England in a city with nearly 60,000 South African residents, many of whom will be in the ground, will be all the motivation they need to produce a typically fierce display.

The form book will count for little when the first whistle blows, so England will need to be on their mettle if they want to start the series with a win.

England vs Fiji, Saturday 19th November

It’s great to see Fiji, the newly-crowned Olympic sevens champions, playing on the biggest of stages against a ‘tier 1’ nation.  As with all the Pacific Island teams, you can guarantee they will field a side dripping with pace and talent who will aim to play scintillating rugby.

If the Fijians tackled any harder, Eddie Jones would be inundated with sick notes from the England players’ mothers.  As it stands, with even bigger tests against Argentina and Australia looming on the following weekends, Jones’ team may feature a few exciting young talents, further ensuring a thrilling rugby spectacle.

England vs Argentina, Saturday 26th November

Argentina have been a major force in world rugby for a number of years and they will present as big a threat to England’s chances of a perfect autumn record as Australia and South Africa.

Taking place ten years after the Pumas’ last win in London, the huge Argentine forward pack and mix of talented and hard-running backs will test England in every department.

It’s also worth noting that, on October 8th, Australia and Argentina were at Twickenham contesting the first ever Rugby Championship fixture to be held in the UK, an experience that will have familiarised both teams with the stadium and lessened England’s home advantage for the approaching games.

England vs Australia, Saturday 3rd December

There has been no greater contrast in fortunes since the World Cup than between England and Australia.  The Aussies, in getting to the final, earned Michael Cheika the title of World Rugby Coach of the Year and England, in failing to progress from their group, earned Stuart Lancaster his P45.

Fast-forward a year and England have a Grand Slam and a 3-0 test series victory in Australia under their belts, while Cheika has overseen 6 consecutive losses, one short of the Australian record held for over ten years by none other than England’s Eddie Jones.

Having suffered a couple of maulings from the relentless All Blacks and a recent loss to South Africa, Australia will be desperate to build on a strong showing against Argentina, but we can’t yet be sure of the mind set in which they’ll arrive at Twickenham.  One thing that is a given is that nothing could motivate them more than the chance of revenge for the summer’s home whitewash at the hands of Eddie Jones and his boys.  Expect an absolute epic.

Click here for details of Engage’s Autumn International hospitality packages.