The Six Nations 2024: The Most Exciting Edition in a While?

The results of the Six Nations are always hard to predict, but it was this unpredictability that made this edition such a spectacle. Most matches delivered an exciting and tight eighty minutes of rugby. Whilst many would have guessed an Ireland v France 1-2, how this score was reached was anything but expected. There was controversy, continuous drama and exciting rugby every single week. With this in mind, here is my team-by-team review…

Wales: 4/10

2024 saw the first wooden spoon since 2003 for the Welsh. At first glance, Wales’ performance in the Six Nations makes for grim reading.

Five losses for the World Cup Quarter Finalists is anything but ideal. They were outclassed every week and struggled to take control of the game. A lack of cohesion in the scrum haunted them. Inexperience at Fly-Half as well as having a young back three made it hard for Wales to win the kick battle and play rugby in opposition territory.

This being said Wales had a very young outfit playing. Their selection presented a rebuild, with the 2027 World Cup being the evident goal. This was purely stage one. Their Back Row, even without star Jac Morgan, was effective. Tommy Reffell equalled the record for most turnovers in a Six Nations, and Wainwright carried hard. If I were Welsh, I wouldn’t be disheartened by this Six Nations – I would hold slight optimism for the coming years. This team is at the start of an upward trajectory where the potential to perform is very promising.

Star Player: Reffell, Jenkins.

Player to Watch: Grady, Winnet, Dyer.

Italy: 8/10

This was Italy’s best Six Nations since they joined the tournament. They pushed England all the way and were a kick mishap away from a famous win against France, and did the job over Scotland and Wales. After previous poor World Cup performances, Italy has bounced back and, in doing so, made the Six Nations a genuinely competitive tournament, where on their day, they can beat anyone.

They brought a level of passion that was to be expected, backed up by a tight, structured pack and a backline which had purpose and control. They played with flair but also nailed the fundamentals of rugby, which was refreshing to watch.

This Italian side is still young. They have room to develop further, which is exciting to see. Accompanied by the growing success of their under-20s side, the next decade could be a big one for Italy.

Star Players: Menoncello, Lamero, Brex.

Players to Watch: Garbisi, Lynagh.

Scotland: 6/10

This was indeed a bit of a ‘What if’ tournament for Scotland. As to how good they were against England, they were equally as poor against Italy and in the second half of their match against Wales. Apart from during their match against England (against whom they secured their fourth consecutive Calcutta Cup), they were actually the architects of their downfall.

For the first forty minutes against Wales, they were excellent. In the second half, they capitulated. Against France, they were in the driving seat, but before long, they let the French find their rhythm and put the result of the game into the hands of a dubious refereeing decision. The point is that they should have had that game wrapped up long before the fateful ‘on-field decision no try’ ruling. Again, versus Italy, Scotland let them into the game and, as a result, were beaten. With the triple crown on the line in Dublin, Scotland defended valiantly and were in the game for much of the first half, but it was their errors that resulted in a loss.

This team are so close to reaching the top tier. They have the talent, and the game plan, and have shown that they can compete with the best in the world. If they can remove their inconsistencies and play eighty minutes of rugby at their top level, then they can compete with the best. Until then, it will be more near misses at this level.

Star Players: Van Der Merwe, Russell.

Players to Watch: Huw Jones.

England: 6.5/10

Third at the World Cup, third at the Six Nations. However, many would argue that the most recent result reflects real progress from the England team we saw at the World Cup.

England’s win against Ireland was a real highlight of this tournament. They played balanced rugby, showed sparks of excitement in attack, and defence started to mould into a real weapon. Throughout the tournament, both the forwards and backs started to gel. The pack appeared more dominant at scrum-time and the driving maul started to work more effectively. They played with quicker ball, Ford brought his centres into the game and the backs looked like they had a plan with the ball in hand.

Whilst the loss against Scotland was a low point and the performance was not one to be proud of, the response against Ireland and the push against France showed that this team can indeed perform. In a few years, this England team could go into the 2027 World Cup with the Webb Ellis trophy as a realistic target – the potential is there.

Star Players: Earl, Chessum.

Players to Watch: Martin, Feyi-Waboso, Freeman.

France: 6.5/10

Despite a second-place finish again this year, the feeling in France may not be wholly optimistic. They looked nothing like the side that generated so much excitement ahead of a home World Cup. The quality that Dupont brings in at 9 was sorely missed, with Lucu not rising to the levels needed in the early rounds when given the opportunity. The pack struggled to be as dominating as predicted, and the backline looked uncharacteristically disjointed- perhaps a consequence of the absence of key players.

Circumstances considered, the French cannot be too disheartened at where they are. The World Cup disappointment is still raw, but this is a side that can bounce back. With Ramos playing at 15 and with Jalibert, Ntamack and Dupont back in the game, a return to the France of the past few years may be on the cards.

Star Players: Penaud, Ramos, Antonio.

Player to Watch: Le Garrec.

Ireland: 8/10

After they demolished France, the potential for Ireland to win the Six Nations was never really a doubt. Andy Farrell managed to orchestrate a response to (another) World Cup quarter-final exit, and for much of the tournament, this Irish side looked very prepared.

The absence of Sexton, an Irish legend, was worrying for Irish fans. However, Jack Crawley seemed to fill his shoes as the rightful successor in Ireland’s long line of world-class fly-halves. It is still early days in his international career, but he played with such confidence, presenting a seamless transition to test rugby. Helped by excellent Gibson-Park on the inside and Aki on the outside, Ireland’s backline looked as connected and deadly as usual.

The front three did not dominate the scrum as much as they may have liked. With England’s Cole neutralising and often getting the better of Ireland’s Porter in the England game, the pressure on Ireland was there. Despite this, they performed to a high standard. In the second row, Beirne was every bit the menace that was expected from him, and McCarthy continued to get better. With one year out from the Lions tour, he is definitely putting his hand up for the Test squad.

Ultimately Ireland did not dominate the tournament in the way that most predicted after the first round, but across the five games, they were by far the best team. The only concern was that they had the oldest squad in the Six Nations. Over the next few years, developing the next set of Ireland superstars will have to be a main focus so Farrell can lead an Ireland team into 2027 ready to break the ‘Quarter Final Curse’.

Star Players: Berine, Doris, Gibson-Park, Aki, Lowe

Player to Watch: Crawley, McCarthy.

Team of the Six Nations:

Considering all this, I have made my dream team for the Six Nations based on each nation’s performance in this tournament:

  1. Fischetti (Italy)
  2. Sheehan (Ireland)
  3. Antonio (France)
  4. McCarthy (Ireland)
  5. Beirne (Ireland)
  6. Chessum (England)
  7. Reffell (Wales)
  8. Earl (England)
  9. Gibson-Park (Ireland)
  10.  Russell (Scotland)
  11.  Van Der Merwe (Scotland)
  12.  Aki (Ireland)
  13.  Brex (Italy)
  14.  Lowe (Ireland)
  15.  Ramos (France)
  16.  George (England)
  17.  Porter (Ireland)
  18.  Cole (England)
  19.  Martin (England)
  20.  Doris (Ireland)
  21.  Mitchell (England)
  22.  Menoncello (Italy)
  23. Penaud (France)

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