When the Six Nations ends, on the night of March 16, there will be six months and four days for the World Cup in Japan, a sigh in a sport of slow progress that allows you to save the right cards up your sleeve. The tournament, which premieres this Friday (9pm) France and Wales before Saturday's giants clash between Ireland and England, puts to the test the good moment of the northern hemisphere, always a failure in the World Cups; only a scepter of eight and no semifinalist in the last appointment. Irish, English and Welsh win three of the top four rankings – behind the AllBlacks and in front of Australia, South Africa or Argentina – and will bring their projects to light in a farewell edition.
Ireland defends its brand-new Grand Slam – winning all matches – and a block that reaches its peak after defeating the AllBlacks in November. In the last two years there have only been three visiting victories -excluded from the equation to Italy- in the tournament, those in Ireland in London and Paris last year and the English in Cardiff. There they cemented their crowns. Much will depend on the duel in Dublin, on the regularity of Scots or Welsh and on whether France regains its status. Despite the harsh winter, the tournament ensures spectacle after a new record of trials last year: 78. The England coach, the Australian Eddie Jones, sums up his experience in what will be his fourth, and perhaps last, Six Nations. "I got that feeling from outside that it was the best tournament in the world. Four years ago I would not have said it, but there's nothing like this. The intensity, the competition, how much it means to people. It's a real honor. "
Ireland, the great favorite
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said after falling in Dublin that Ireland was the favorite to win the World Cup. Psychological games aside, the XV del Trébol project reaches its desired peak with the best architects in Jonathan Sexton – player of the year in 2018 – and ConorMurray, a veteran forward able to manage the best static attack and a lot of new sap to complete the fund of closet. His coach, also New Zealander Joe Schmidt, will seek his fourth title in six years before closing his magnificent stage in Japan. Visits to Edinburgh and, above all, to Cardiff are its great threat if it remains intractable at home.
The renewed Wales asks for passage
It will be the farewell of Warren Gatland after 12 years at the head of Wales, which has seen light and goodbye to the portentous generation of the years 2011-13. Your challenge is to bequeath a new one. And it looks good. Gone is a more conservative and tactical game that served to fight in the north but did not give options to the greats of the south. His team defends a record of nine wins in a row after defeating Australia and South Africa in November. And will debut in Paris with a brave axis between the opening GarethAnscombe -in the bank is Dan Biggar- and young half-scrum Tomos Williams, the lightest player in the tournament, with just 78 kilos. Winning France – they have won on six of the last seven occasions – would open an auspicious schedule, with Ireland and England at home.
Scotland, beyond Edinburgh
Snatching the Calcutta Cup from the English 10 years later justifies a worthy third place in 2018 for a Scotland that wins everything in Edinburgh but decays at home. Up to a score of casualties condition their start; not so much for the debut against Italy as the Irish visit seven days later. Rendering in London and Paris continues to be the challenge of a colorful ensemble whose opening voice is Finn Russell.
The eternal transition of France
The bullfighting of a France at the height of its history and its three world subchampionships. Since the last one, in 2011, the collapse continues and they do not go beyond a third place in the Six Nations of 2017. The return of Jacques Brunel as technician improved the version of the last course; the game could fail, but not the intensity. Despite the blushing defeat to Fiji, they gave up three games for a total of nine points and gave themselves the pleasure of ruining the tournament to England. It changes the whole rear from 12 months ago, including the MathieuBeasteraud merchandise, with the hope personified in RomainNtamack, 19, the youngest player in the tournament. It will debut as a center, although its versatility makes it a brilliant opening, since it retains Camille López. A talented forward like Demba Bamba also knocks on the door and follows the old guard of the great GuilhemGuirado.
The old problems of England
After taking the gears of 2016 and 2017, England wrecked the last course and woke up old ghosts. First, his home performance with hard defeats in Edinburgh and France. Then, the level of his third line in physical encounters and his dependence on the fragile Billy Vunipola. The rise of Tom Curry can become providential in this regard. There are many wounds to close before Japan to define a more or less offensive philosophy. In doubt is the post of defender – consolidates the verticality of Elliot Daly in front of Mike Brown – the two spearheads in the wing – for now, the aggressive Jonny May and Jack Nowell – or the role of the pair that form George Ford, substitute in Ireland, and Owen Farrell in 10. The anticipated final of Dublin, where they have only won once since 2003, may come soon.
The Italy of the best loser
Captain Sergio Parisse will surpass Brian O'Driscoll as the player who has played most games in the northern classic -66- in his visit to Edinburgh. He could even be the most international player if he extends his career beyond what will be his fifth World Cup. Nobody else knows what it is to lose 100 games with their national team and nobody would be more proud of what it was for. Italy, which has lost its last 17 games in the northern classic, boasts of improvements in its clubs and bright young people, but needs results in what will be its twentieth participation.