Despite the rumblings amongst the pundits that this will be France’s year in the Six Nations, I’m slightly more inclined to back Ireland. Although up against 14 men for a large part of the match, Munster’s win over Racing Metro 92 may well be a precursor of things to come. With Simon Zebo notching a hat-trick and dumping rivals Leinster out of the Heineken Cup in the process, Irish fans will be licking their lips at the prospect of an exciting and rejuvenated back line. Zebo will be looking to build on his first three international caps gained during the Autumn Internationals and cement himself in the Irish line-up.
Glasgow inflicted a painful defeat on Northampton at the weekend, with Peter Horne scoring an amazing last minute try that justified his call up to the Scotland squad and sent their opponents out of the Heineken Cup. Starting within their own 22, Glasgow took the bold decision to run it. After a few solid phases making important ground, the ball came to Horne who threw a dummy and then beat three tackles to make the final 50 metres and score one of the tries of the tournament. With a number of debutants in the Scottish squad there is certainly scope for Horne to make himself a prominent figure during the tournament.
A much-needed win, spearheaded by the returning Lloyd Williams who scored a try and created another, will restore some belief not only within the Blues but also within Welsh Rugby as a whole, as the Six Nations looms on the horizon. A consummate display from the young scrum-half suggests that, while Wales will be lacking upfront, they have plenty of firepower in the backs. Whether Williams will start over Mike Phillips remains to be seen, but Wales will be certain that they have a sure pair of hands and quick mind at scrum-half.
Love him or hate him there is no denying that, at his best, he is one of the top finishers in world rugby. From a poor display last week to the accomplished one he gave against Edinburgh, Ashton will undoubtedly remain in the starting 15, purely for what he is capable of. As Saracens boss Mark McCall stated: “It was great to see Ashy score a couple of tries and get back to what he really does best.” England fans will be hoping that this game can be the starting point from which the winger gathers some momentum to take into the Six Nations.
By Jono Frank