Articles

Five coaching calls that could decide the Six Nations Posted over 3 years ago

Default

Here are five coaching calls that could shape the destiny of this year’s Six Nations championship.

Is it possible to harness emotion?

The destiny of this year’s Six Nations title will not be decided by a coach’s on-field tactical decisions alone. Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has two off-field issues to address that will have a significant bearing on his side’s Six Nations and his first taste of the championship. The first stems from Ireland’s last outing against New Zealand in November where they flirted with a first ever victory over the All Blacks only to fall to a heart-breaking defeat. The agonising nature of that loss will have scarred his squad and demanded delicate treatment in the wake of the defeat itself to ensure his side are still able to draw positives from it. How they now reference that game will be evident from the opening whistle. Secondly, Schmidt must harness the emotion that will accompany Brian O’Driscoll’s final Six Nations before retirement without allowing it to over-shadow their title challenge. Do that successfully and, thanks to a kind schedule, there is every chance that a title-winning campaign could end with yet another golden moment for O’Driscoll in Paris at the stadium where he announced himself on the Test stage with a hat-trick back in 2000.

Watch Sam Warburton’s coaching videos now

Can France find their long lost flair?

The history books tell us France are a good bet to win the title following a British & Irish Lions tour but they have plenty of work if they are to go from last year’s wooden spoon to championship glory.

The flair on which they made their name has been largely notable by its absence since Philippe Saint-Andre took charge with his failure to settle on a No.10 compounding his problems. Question marks remain over their first choice playmaker with Frederic Michalak recently discarded and Remi Tales set to miss the opener against England through injury. Does he opt for the in-form yet untried Stade Francais No.10 Jules Plisson or hand a recall to the more experienced Montpellier fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc? Toulouse’s Jean-Marc Doussain is another option, although primarily seen as a scrum-half, with whoever is chosen set to be charged with unleashing a talent-heavy backs division set to include the likes of Wesley Fofana and Gael Fickou. Saint-Andre’s next move will not only impact on his side’s Six Nations hopes but surely his own future having seen his side win just two of 11 Test clashes last year.

How often do you go to the ‘go to’ man?

Wales possess arguably the most potent attacking force in world rugby right now in George North. The 21-year-old winger is one of the sport’s hottest properties having starred for the British & Irish Lions, Wales and Northampton Saints in recent months with his devastating combination of power and pace a key part of the defending champions’ armoury. When you have such a player at your disposal the temptation is to involve them as much as possible but not to the point where you become predictable. Do not be surprised if North continues to crop up in midfield and wreak havoc in defensive lines, especially with injury having sidelined another key threat in the form of Jonathan Davies, and coach Warren Gatland will be determined to extract a greater return from North than the one try he managed in last year’s Six Nations.

Join the top coaches and players in the world. Subscribe to The Rugby Site today

Time ticking for Twelvetrees?

Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees is expected to keep the England No.12 shirt for his side’s Six Nations campaign starting with the clash against France this weekend – but he is under growing pressure to provide the creative spark that has been largely missing of late from his otherwise successful side. He has retained the faith of coach Stuart Lancaster despite having been subjected to widespread criticism during the autumn while his best form has also been absent on the domestic stage – although an under-performing Gloucester pack have done him no favours. Lancaster remains defiant, confident in Twelvetrees’ playmaking ability and his partnership with first-choice No.10 Owen Farrell. But Lancaster may opt for a re-think if Twelvetrees fails to leverage a powerful England pack – especially now Brad Barritt has returned to fitness and is very much in the midfield mix. Twelvetrees is not only going to have to hit the ground running – in the daunting surroundings of the Stade de France and then Murrayfield – but also take his team-mates along for the ride.

Does BOD have a point to prove?

The dust may have long since settled on the row that followed coach Warren Gatland’s decision to drop Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll for the British & Irish Lions’ third Test decider against Australia last year but expect the veteran centre’s pain to resurface when Wales visit Dublin in Round 2. Every O’Driscoll outing in what will be his last Six Nations is sure to be emotionally-charged – but none more so than his final encounter with a coach who also handed him his international debut back in 1999 when he was Ireland coach. Both Ireland and Wales are favoured to win their opening clashes, against Scotland and Italy respectively, with their Aviva Stadium showdown set to be pivotal to their respective championship chances. The history books show Gatland’s controversial call paid off Down Under but could his bold call still come at a price?

Where do you see the Six Nations being decided and which coach do you think will deliver? Comments below…

Enter your email address to continue reading

We frequently post interesting articles and comment from our world class content providers so please provide us with your email address and we will notify you when new articles are available.

We'll also get in touch with various news and updates that we think will interest you. We promise to not spam, sell, or otherwise abuse your address (you can unsubscribe at any time).

Comments

comments powered by Disqus

Graham Jenkins is a freelance sports journalist who has been reporting around the rugby globe for over 20 years. A former editor of the leading rugby union website Scrum.com, he is a veteran of five World Cups and cites England’s 2003 triumph as the most memorable moment of his professional career - closely followed by a night out with Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal.

Comments
Topic News & Opinions
Applicable to Coaches  

Related articles

How successful was Premiership's Philadelphia experiment?

As the dust settles on the Aviva Premiership’s latest attempt to crack the United States market, Graham Jenkins reflects on what the league can learn from their Philadelphia experiment.

Exclusive: USA Rugby CEO Dan Payne talks growing the game Stateside

Writer Graham Jenkins talks exclusively with USA Rugby CEO Dan Payne about various issues he’s faced in his first year in charge and looks ahead at the key areas of growth, ahead of this week’s Premiership game in the States.

Do you love rugby more than you love your children?

As coaches and referees, it is incredibly important that we teach our youngsters the safest way to enjoy our game but it is also imperative that we educate ourselves about the player welfare issues and share that knowledge with players and parents. With the northern season nearly upon us, writer Graham Jenkins looks at what measures the RFU implementing to make the game safer for junior players.

Why Warren Gatland will not be the next All Blacks coach

You could be forgiven for thinking there was no winner in the British & Irish Lions’ recent showdown with New Zealand given that the enthralling Test series was drawn. However surprisingly this was not the case as Graham Jenkins explains one person emerged with their reputation greatly enhanced.

No winner but World Rugby still loses

The British & Irish Lions’ tour of New Zealand came to an enthralling and painfully frustrating conclusion at Eden Park on Saturday night. The occasion may have failed to provide a winner but there was certainly a loser. Leading writer Graham Jenkins explores the sport’s shortcomings that can no longer be ignored by World Rugby.