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Wednesday 24th January 2018
RUGBY'S GREATEST CHAMPIONSHIP
A new year, a new sponsor, a new launch venue, and another grey drizzly January day began at the Syon Park Hilton. All six captains and coaches were jettisoned to the venue to face the world’s rugby media for the annual interrogation which usually begins with “what would be an acceptable finishing position for England/ Ireland/ Scotland/ Wales/ France/ Italy? (delete as appropriate)”, and ends with the race to see which nation can escape most quickly from the tedium of answering the same questions by at least seven different media channels!
F1, Olympics, equestrian and rugby sports presenter and Rally champion, Lee McKenzie put the all the captains through their paces in a live Q&A, with Scotland's John Barclay the new kid on the podium, joining France’s Guilhem Guirado, Ireland’s Rory Best, Wales' Alun Wyn Jones, the legend that is Italy's Sergio Parisse and England’s twice winning Six Nations captain, Dylan Hartley.
And with the Women’s Six Nations running alongside with more pomp than ever before, the lady captains were heralded in the same fashion.
For more on the Women's championship launch and schedule etc., head over here:
Having won the Championship two years in a row already, England Rugby will be defending their title, with fans hoping their team will make history by the end of 17th March 2018 by winning the the Championship for an unprecedented third consecutive year, not yet achieved in the tournament’s 135 years. And though focussed on the Six Nations, Head Coach, Eddie Jones is eyeing a much bigger prize in Rugby World Cup 2019.
“As long as we keep improving, keep building our playing strategy, our resilience, our ability to dig deep when it’s tough – the depth of our squad – if we keep moving forward in those areas, it’ll be a successful tournament for us. But of course objectively we want to win the tournament.”
In contrast to last year’s launch, Jones looked in as peak condition as his ever-fitter players: “We’re going to need to be more hungry. That’s why we don’t mind these other teams being spoken as the darlings of European rugby, cos it gives its something to chase. We’ve got to be the hungriest team in the tournament to win and that’s what we’re aiming to be.”
“I think you just sense there’s a great excitement about the tournament and I think that in itself generates excitement. You’ve got a well performing Ireland and Scotland, Wales have always been strong. France traditionally have been a powerhouse of Six Nations rugby and we know if you put down each of the teams on paper and you looked at the individuals of the French team, you’d say they’ve got a strong team and they’ve got a very experienced coach now. He’s been coaching professional rugby for 20-odd years, he’s done a stint as a coach under Laporte and he’ll bring to them a wealth of experience, probably a calmness and some surety about the French style of play, so they could regenerate.
“And Italy’s mischievous aren’t they, and then you’ve got us. So I think it’s a really good tournament and then you’ve got the geographical proximity of the countries, which makes it even more intense. I think it’s just a wonderful tournament, and you feel honoured and humbled to be part of it.”
Of course it was not just the England coach who had an opinion on the greatest championship in the North; five other coaches and captains mostly did not disappoint…