Friday, 3 Feb 2017 : With the World Cup in Ireland in August, teams have the twin challenges of building momentum for that as well as claiming the Six Nations crown.
Some sides had the challenge of reintegrating players from the Olympic sevens teams in the autumn, now it is a chance for the coaches to try out combinations and build depth.
The announcement of full-time professional contracts for England’s women is incredibly beneficial for the women’s game generally and for those players personally.
I expect them to be the chief threat to France once again after the dramatic winner-takes-all match between them on the final weekend of last season’s tournament.
I don’t know the ins and out of the structure and politics at the French Federation, but in December they sacked Jean-Michel Gonzalez and Philippe Laurent – the coaches that guided them to the title last year.
It does not leave much time for the players to adapt to Samuel Cherouk, get used to his way of playing and implement changes.
As professional players, England now have the time to refine their fitness, work on their skills and get the rest when they need it.
They were a little slow to get going in the autumn as coach Simon Middleton brought those who had been playing sevens back into the fold, but still managed to register wins over France, Ireland and Canada and push New Zealand close.
There is a huge amount of experience in their ranks as well with Rochelle Clark leading the way on 117 caps and Tamara Taylor just short of a century on 98.
From the words of coach Tom Tierney it sounds like a positive environment in the Ireland camp as he develops younger players and depth before hosting the World Cup in the summer.
The women’s game in Ireland is going from strength to strength, with them competing in their first autumn series last year.
They pushed England incredibly close, going down by just two points, as well as playing the world’s number three and one sides in Canada and New Zealand.
It was a tough series, but they are growing as a team and getting more consistent.
Rowland Phillips took charge of Wales in July and since then they have won four games out of four.
Their most recent win was a 22-14 victory away in Ireland and they will come into the Six Nations with lots of positive momentum.
As a former Wales international, Phillips knows what it takes to be successful and that is rubbing off on the players. He has been speaking about consistency and rewarding players for good performances.
They have got a tough World Cup group alongside New Zealand – the emphasis will be on having a very strong Six Nations to build into that.
Italy have shown improvement at every Six Nations since they joined in 2007.
They finished fifth in the tournament last year and, although I wouldn’t say they are potential champions, you can never count them out of any game.
They were just two points behind England approaching the hour mark in last year’s Six Nations and, in the same World Cup group as the Red Roses later this year, they will want to show they can mix it with big teams.
They have three games at home and that will benefit them as well.
Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup after losing both their qualifying matches against Spain unfortunately.
The silver lining to that might be that it might help their focus on this tournament.
On a positive note, they have young players coming through and a coach in Shade Munro who is trying to develop the team.Love to see them turn in some of the performances that they managed back in 2010 when they beat France and drew with Italy, if they could do that again that would be great.
However, based on their performances and the improvements of the other teams I think another wooden spoon is most realistic.
Source By: Internet