The annual international Rugby Union Championship begins this weekend.
Holders Ireland go into the 2019 renewal as odds-on favourites, and defeating the all-conquering All Blacks at home last November will have only enhanced their chances of a first back-to-back Grand Slam.
Unbeaten at their Aviva home in the competition under current coach Joe Schmidt, they welcome England in their opening fixture. Ireland are undefeated, home and away, since November 2016. They will be tough to beat again.
The 15 matches are now played at separate times across the five weeks, and Eddie Jones’s England play last on three occasions this year, possibly an advantage. However, with their toughest test set to come first, they will need to hit the ground running.
After their poor form of 2018, these matches may decide whether the Australian coach stays in charge after the final round on March 16. Losing the Calcutta Cup to Scotland last year, they will want to respond positively.
Scotland are the only country of the original line-up of five yet to capture the Six Nations since it’s inauguration in 2000, when perennial wooden spoon side Italy joined.
But Gregor Townsend’s men have only two defeats in their last 10 matches at Murrayfield. They begin at home to Italy who have lost 17 consecutive matches in the Six Nations since winning this fixture in 2015.
France host Wales first and have experienced very differing recent fortunes; the former, one win in seven and the latter unbeaten in nine. Les Bleus will be looking for a good start, while The Dragons can put up a strong challenge this year.
Six Nations 2019 Fixtures:
Week 1: France v Wales – Scotland v Italy – Ireland v England
Week 2: Scotland v Ireland – Italy v Wales – England v France
Week 3: France v Scotland – Wales v England – Italy v Ireland
Week 4: Scotland v Wales – England v Italy – Ireland v France
Italy v France – Wales v Ireland – England v Scotland
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