This weekend sees the start of this year’s tournament, with last years winners Wales facing Ireland in a celtic battle at the Millennium Stadium, closely followed by England hosting Scotland in the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham. Sundays match promises to be a cracker in Rome with France, many people’s favourites to win the Championship, facing the home team on a high from last year. Add in the atmosphere of a packed Stadio Olympico and a home win cannot be ruled out.
A great start to the Championship is in store and while England on the basis of their autumn performance and that victory against the All Blacks, must be clear favourites if they can reproduce that performance. Stuart Lancaster, the Scot who is now coaching England, has a huge range of players to call upon, many of whom are playing excellent rugby week, in week out for the various Club teams across England and beyond. Scotland, on return from an unbeaten tour down under, including a win against Australia, needs to forget about their final match in the autumn against Tonga just as much as England want to remember their All Blacks win!
The Calcutta Cup one of the oldest Rugby trophy in the world is a different match- form and trends tend every so often to be disregarded- for example who would have predicted England would beat Scotland last year at Murrayfield with a new coach and a completely new team! I look back at a few coincides in predicting Scotland surprisingly to beat England and kick off this season in style.
My basis of that prediction – the last time a Laidlaw and a Beattie played together for Scotland at scrum half and no.8, was in 1983, the year Scotland, lead by my old Club Captain Jim Aitken, picked up the silverware at Twickenham. The other coincides is that year, and similarly this year, Scotland were clearly underdogs and written off by every expert in the rugby world! One characteristic of us Scots is that we are a proud Nation, and probably perform best when written off-so that s the basis of my prediction!
Preceding the Calcutta Cup match is the Wales v Ireland match and that will be a cracker and with so many of these matches, probably a high scoring event. Wales will, on the basis of last year performances be expected to win but form and injuries have taken the edge of their team, so I am predicting an Irish win in Cardiff, with new captain Heaslip adding to his credentials as a probable British Lions captain in Australia this summer.
The cold winter’s afternoon in Europe will be brightened over the next 8 weeks or so with a close and highly competitive Championship, played in a great spirit and with full commitment.
Not attending Twickenham this year I will have to seek some solace in a large Glen Grant 10 Year Old, in front of a roaring fire, giving loud advice to the TV and frightening the dogs, and our neighbours! So what’s new?
R.F.Cunningham, former Scottish Rugby Internationalist, is HR Adviser to Glen Grant Distillery in Speyside.