There is just one day left until the annual Six Nations tournament kicks off for the 22nd time. Italy play host to France in Rome, while Ireland travel to the Principality Stadium to face Wales. Meanwhile, Gregor Townsend’s men look to cause an early upset in a Round 1 Calcutta Cup clash as Scotland face England at Twickenham.
The stages are set. The team sheets are out. We’ve taken a look and hand-picked our top head-to-head match ups for each game of the opening round.
Italy vs France – 06/02/21 – Stadio Olympico, Rome
Stephen Varney vs Antoine Dupont
Gloucester’s nippy No.9 vs Toulouse’s exciting playmaker. Now, we all know how dangerous Dupont, last year’s ‘Player of the Tournament’, can be when given an inch on the playing surface. The man loves to run, and he’s one of the most efficient distributors in the international arena.
The pressure is on Varney, Italy’s import from the Premiership to disrupt the French playmaker and swing momentum in his side’s favour. Sure, the home side lacks experience and enter the competition as underdogs… But this is the 6 Nations, where anything can happen. One thing that’s for sure is that these two men form a pivotal cog in their respective team’s machine, making their individual contests one to watch.
England vs Scotland – 06/02/21 – Twickenham Stadium, London
Ollie Lawrence vs Cameron Redpath
Every Calcutta Cup fixture promises to entertain, and this year is no different. Despite the lack of stadium fans, Twickenham will no doubt be electrified as the oldest rivalry in the game gets underway for the 139th time.
Gregor Townsend has taken the opportunity to bleed new talent into the International knit, with fresh-faced Cameron Redpath making his debut from the starting ranks. His opposite number is none other than Ollie Lawrence of the Worcester Warriors. Both played alongside one another at U18 and U20 level for England, but Redpath has chosen to follow in the stud marks of his father, former Scotland captain Bryan Redpath.
Keep an eye on the inside centre channels while watching this contest. Can these two young guns provide the spark to a Calcutta contest already fuelled and primed to blow?
Wales vs Ireland – 07/02/21 – Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Louis Rees-Zammit vs James Lowe
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve already heard all about Wales’ wonder kid Rees-Zammit. The 20-year old speedster was playing college-level rugby just a few short seasons ago. Following a meteoric first season playing for Gloucester in the Premiership, it came as no surprise that Wayne Pivac employed him in the Welsh ranks for last year’s Autumn internationals.
Across the field stands James Lowe, Kiwi expat who has formerly represented the Maori All Blacks. Lowe signed for Leinster in 2017, and became eligible for Ireland through their three-year residency rule. The 27-year-old is a physical, hard running winger who, given the opportunity, will cause real problems for his opposition.
Both wingers have been afforded their Six Nations debut following impressive exhibitions during the Autumn international series. The pressure will be enormous, but who will shine when it matters most?