As a trusted Wales Six Nations hospitality provider, we couldn't be more excited about this year's tournament.
But there are plenty of questions as kick-off edges closer. Are Ireland or France best placed to challenge at the World Cup later this year? How will England and Wales fare under their new head coaches? And what of Scotland and the ever-improving Italians — can they do more than inflict the odd bloody nose?
The opening round of matches could provide some answers. Read on for our preview of the action.
Wales v Ireland (Saturday 4 Feb, 2:15pm)
With theWelsh RFU in turmoil, the nation badly needs Warren Gatland to rejuvenate their rugby team after a disappointing spell under Wayne Pivac. And if anyone can, it's the returning head coach, who won four Six Nations titles and three Grand Slams during his first stint in charge between 2008 and 2019. The problem for Gatland is, Wales's ageing side looked long past their best as they slumped to home defeats against Wales and Georgia in the autumn. He'll rely heavily on experienced campaigners such as Ken Owens, Dan Biggar and Justin Tipuric against the might of Ireland, although the uncapped Mason Grady of Cardiff could prove an inspired squad inclusion.
Meanwhile, all is rosy in Ireland's camp. The world's No. 1 nation proved what fierce competitors they are in 2022, enjoying a historic Test series win in New Zealand before securing autumn victories over Fiji, Australia and world champions South Africa.
France will arguably be their biggest obstacle to Six Nations glory in 2023; last year, Andy Farrell's men came unstuck in Paris as Les Bleus' kicking helped them to a 30-24 win. This time around, the Irish host France in Dublin and will be out for revenge. But for now, their attention will be focused entirely on beating Wales in the cauldron of Principality Stadium.
With the whole team in excellent form, it's hard to pick out just one man to watch, although centre Garry Ringrose has been sensational over the past 12 months.
England v Scotland (Saturday 4 Feb, 4.30pm)
England endured a disappointing 2022, notching just 5 wins — and that spelt the end for Eddie Jones, despite being the nation's most successful head coach in terms of win rate. The RFU turned to Steve Borthwick as the Australian's replacement and his credentials are impressive, having turned Leicester from Premiership strugglers to champions in two seasons. The former England captain has been joined by a talented assistant coaching team, including Kevin Sinfield and Nick Evans, and they'll be expected to have an immediate impact against Scotland.
That said, so much responsibility rests on the shoulders of Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith in the half-back positions — arguably the two truly world-class players in England's ranks. If they can stop them, Scotland have a great chance of retaining the Calcutta Cup.
2022 was a funny year for Scotland. Their Six Nations campaign was marked by frustration and missed opportunities, with narrow defeats and inconsistencies. The relationship between head coach Gregor Townsend and star fly-half Finn Russell was a key storyline; Russell was dropped for disciplinary reasons before delivering a Man of the Match performance in their autumn clash against Argentina.
On their day, Scotland are good enough to beat anyone — Russell, Stuart Hogg and Duhan van der Merwe are among the most talented backs in the northern hemisphere — but matching their high-tempo style with physicality up front is necessary if they're to have a successful tournament. If Townsend's men were to notch two wins, it'd be a decent return. If one of those came against bitter rivals England, they'd no doubt consider the Six Nations a success.
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France v Italy (Sunday 5 Feb, 3pm)
Italian rugby is riding a wave of optimism following an impressive 2022. The Azzuri recorded five victories from 11 Tests — their highest win rate in a non-World Cup year since 1998 and the most victories in a non-World Cup year in the professional era. Their notable triumphs included ending a 36-match losing streak in the Six Nations against Wales, a big win against Samoa, and a historic first-ever victory over Australia.
Italy’s full-back, Ange Capuozzo — who is World Rugby's Breakthrough Player of the Year — has proved to be a man for the grand occasion. And so the home side heads into this match with legitimate hope of causing the French problems.
Having won the Grand Slam in 2022, and with the World Cup on home soil later this year, France are hotly tipped to enjoy an all-conquering 2023. Could anything threaten their upward trajectory?
Well, for one, they face a tough schedule, with three away matches; after Italy, Les Bleus face Ireland in Dublin next week, before travelling to Twickenham for their penultimate game. Head coach Fabien Galthié also has to contend with a growing injury list that includes lineout monster Cameron Woki and dazzling centre Jonathan Danty.
That said, he still has a strong squad led by Antoine Dupont — arguably one of the greatest players in history. With him in the starting XV, anything other than a comfortable victory over the Italians would be a seismic shock.HURRY! Secure your seat at Wales v England with our last remaining Six Nations hospitality packages >