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2023 Six Nations Preview - Ireland favourites with France facing tough title defence

ralph-staniforth
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Last updated: 04 Feb 2023
Ralph Staniforth 04 Feb 2023
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  • The 2023 Six Nations gets under way on 4 February 2023
  • France are the defending Six Nations champions
  • Ireland favourites to take the crown this year
Ireland six nations
Six Nations starts on 4 February, 2023 (Getty images)

The 2023 Six Nations starts on 4 February 2023 with the first match seeing Wales host Ireland at the Principality. That is followed by England at home against Scotland before Italy host France on Sunday, 5 February.

It is a massive year for all the sides in the Six Nations, and all those that do not feature as the 2023 Rugby World Cup takes place later this year in France.

France


France are the defending Six Nations champions after going unbeaten through the 2022 tournament. They are certainly the form side in world rugby alongside Six Nations favourites, Ireland.

The French are on an 11-match winning run, stretching back to their Six Nations loss against Scotland in 2021. Last year during the Six Nations, France won all five matches. Four of those games were convincing but they just beat Ireland (30-24) at home and Wales (13-9) away.

France also beat Australia, South Africa and Japan in the 2022 November internationals.

While the renowned French flair is still present, they are a more conservative and consistent side from years gone by. The only reason they are not favourites to defend their title is because of the fixture list.

Every season, due to the five games played, some teams play three away games and two at home. Others will have the opposite of that.

This season France starts away in Italy, a game they will want to get five points from. They then travel to Ireland before hosting Scotland. A trip to Twickenham follows and then they finish off at home against Wales.

It is not that difficult to imagine that the week two fixture against Ireland could be the title decider, although England, Scotland and Wales all have the ability to beat others. Italy shouldn’t pose too much of a threat.

Ireland


Ireland are slight favourites going into the 2023 Six Nations ahead of France, the defending champions. This season Ireland, much like France, play two home games and three away. But the big one comes in round two when Ireland host France in Dublin.

The Irish only lost one match in the 2022 Six Nations. That defeat came against France away by six points, and a reverse result in Dublin will be perfect.

Ireland will have to focus on other games, too. They start away in Wales before hosting France. They then face Italy and Scotland away in round three and four. Ireland ends the Six Nations at home against England.

Other than their defeat to France in the Six Nations, Ireland beat every other side with ease. The closest anyone came was England who lost by 17 points.

In November 2022, Ireland defeated South Africa 19-16, then thrashed Fiji 35-17 and saw off Australia 13-10.

England


England have been underwhelming since reaching the 2019 Rugby World Cup final where they lost to South Africa. They have also made a very bold choice, sacking Eddie Jones recently with Steve Borthwick taking charge.

Jones got them to the World Cup final and although many have been disappointed with his performance since, he has proven pedigree while Borthwick is as inexperienced as they come. Only time will tell if this change was a good idea in a World Cup year.

England host Scotland in their Six Nations opener, a side they have lost to home and away in the last two years. That is followed by a home game against Italy. 

While England are outsiders for the title, should they get the win over Scotland and then beat Italy, momentum will be with them before traveling to Wales in round three. Victory there could set up a cracking final couple of weeks.

After Wales, England host France before traveling to Dublin to face Ireland in the final week.

In the November 2022 internationals, England lost at home to Argentina before beating Japan. They then drew 25-all against New Zealand. England finished off with a disappointing 27-13 home defeat to South Africa.

Wales


Wales rugby is in turmoil at the moment. The union is facing a massive outlash after sexism reports with clubs turning against the home union. There have also been other issues, especially among the clubs and the union.

Despite that, Wales club performances have been much improved over recent months, and they have brought back Warren Gatland as head coach. Gatland previously coached Wales for 12 years, their most successful 12-year spell. He also took them to the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-finals.

Wayne Pivac took over thereafter but results did not go for the new coach. Gatland’s arrival has given the public fresh hope, although a Six Nations title this year might even be beyond his reach.

Last year Wales suffered two nightmare results, losing to Italy at home in the Six Nations before also going down at home to tier 2 Georgia in November.

This season Wales start their Six Nations campaign with a home game against Ireland before traveling to Scotland. They then host England, and then play Italy away. The Welsh end their campaign in France on 18 March.

Scotland


Scotland have been a much-improved side over the last five or six years. Under Gregor Townsend they have achieved some notable results, but consistently beating the big boys has been a challenge.

In the 2021 and 2022 Six Nations, Scotland beat England both home and away. They also beat France in 2021 but have failed to capitalise on those results. The reality is that the Scots have a good unit under Townsend but they lack the depth of the likes of Ireland, France and England to consistently challenge.

There is no doubt that Scotland can ruffle a few feathers during the 2023 Six Nations, they will almost certainly upset the odds on one or two occasions, but that won’t be enough.

The fixtures are in Scotland’s favour seeing as they play three home and two away games. Their first order of business is a trip to Twickenham where they beat England two years ago. They then host Wales and travel to France before hosting Ireland and Italy in their final two games.

Last year the Scots beat England at Murrayfield before going down to Wales and France on successive weekends. That was followed with a victory over Italy before losing comfortably at the Aviva Stadium to Ireland.

In November, Scotland lost by a point at home to Australia, then beat Fiji and lost 31-23 to the All Blacks. Scotland ended their 2022 home November internationals with a fine 52-29 win over Argentina.

Italy


Italy are the minnows of the Six Nations and perennial bottom feeders. Nothing less than that is expected this season, but the difference is that Italy are a lot more competitive at the moment. They have some fine players, and the coaching staff seem to have gotten things right for now.

Last year Italy lost four of their five matches but did upset the odds to beat Wales at the Principality in the final match of the Six Nations. That should give the Italians some confidence heading into this year.

In the November internationals Italy impressed once again. They beat Samoa 49-17 before causing a huge shock with a  28-27 win over Australia at home.

Their year ended on a low though as South Africa smashed them 63-21 at home. But this season holds much promise for the Italians. They would love to not finish bottom but there are five very strong other sides. A victory will go a long way to showing their continued improvement.

2023 Six Nations FAQ

When is the 2023 Six Nations?

The 2023 Six Nations starts on Saturday, 4 February 2023.

Who are the defending Six Nations champions?

France won the Six Nations in 2022.

Who are the favourites for the 2023 Six Nations?

Ireland are current favourites for the 2023 Six Nations title with France also short priced.

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