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Evening Event – Six Nations Preview and Road to Rugby World Cup 2019™

On Thursday 31 January, the night before the start of the Six Nations, STH Live teamed up with The Times+ to co-host an insightful panel discussion, which looked at Ben Kay and Geordan Murphy’s expert opinions on the upcoming tournament and how it could shape the home nations chances at Rugby World Cup 2019 ™ in Japan.

SIX NATIONS INSIGHTS:

The 2019 Six Nations has the potential to be the best ever. Three European teams went into the tournament in the World Rugby rankings’ top four, which has never been seen before in a Six Nations leading up to a Rugby World Cup.

The key for England, Ireland and Wales’ chances of winning the Six Nations and achieving the Grand Slam will be how they do in Cardiff. Kay reiterated this as he said, “Any team wanting to achieve the Grand Slam will need to do it the hard way with a win in Wales, but it’ll make for excellent preparation to the Rugby World Cup.”

But will a strong Six Nations and a possible Grand Slam really result in Rugby World Cup success? Only one team, which Kay was a key figure in, has ever achieved the trifecta of winning the Six Nations, a Grand Slam and a Rugby World Cup. “It’s not always important, but this year feels more important than past Six Nations” Kay explained. “England and Ireland want to keep building on their momentum, so anything less than a Grand Slam isn’t great”. He also said that he didn’t feel a couple of losses for Wales would be as detrimental, but a Grand Slam would greatly lift their confidence and increase their chances at Rugby World Cup 2019.

Kay then looked back to his 2003 Six Nations, the last before the only Rugby World Cup win for a northern hemisphere team, where he remembers Clive Woodward challenging them before the Grand Slam decider against Ireland in Dublin, with the bold statement of “If you don’t win this game you won’t win the World Cup”. But has Geordan Murphy now cursed the Irish as he feels the same about the 2019 Ireland squad? He said “That’s the same with Ireland going into this game. If Ireland don’t win this game I don’t see them winning the Rugby World Cup”. The Irish fans certainly don’t hope that is the case following their defeat to England two days later.

Six Nations ‘top three’ predictions:
Ben Kay: (No Grand Slam)
  1. Wales
  2. England
  3. Ireland
Geordan Murphy: (Grand Slam to Ireland)
  1. Ireland
  2. England
  3. Wales

RUGBY WORLD CUP 2019 INSIGHTS:

For European teams, Rugby World Cup 2019 is shaping to be one of the most exciting. It’s almost as if Rugby World Cup 2015, where no northern hemisphere teams made the semi-finals, was the wake-up call needed. With three of the top four ranked teams being European, has the gap closed and are northern hemisphere teams now leading the way? Without a doubt Kay thinks that is the case, “The northern hemisphere teams have definitely caught up, with the strong performances from Ireland dragging the other teams up. All the European teams have had to improve at such a rate that the southern hemisphere teams can’t keep up”. Murphy also agrees, but he is still very wary of the best team in the world, “With the dominance of one side in the southern hemisphere, New Zealand, it has led to other southern hemisphere teams weakening and internal struggles breaking out. This can be seen in the domestic stage as well, with European domestic rugby being seen as the best rugby in the world, and more entertaining than Super Rugby with the contests being closer.” Murphy went on to say that the way the Six Nations is played actually creates better ‘tournament’ rugby players as every game is a must win. “For example, the Rugby Championship maybe makes better rugby players because there is less pressure on them, so they can lose one week but still win the championship, so they are willing to try things resulting in a more expansive game. Whereas the Six Nations breeds better Rugby World Cup teams because in a Rugby World Cup (after the pool stages) you don’t have next week, so every game is a must win.”

Either way, they feel that the current world rankings are a fair indication of who are the top teams in the world are, and those teams should be who we see playing in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals.

Webb Ellis Cup - STH Live

Rugby World Cup Predicted semi-finalists: (In no order)

  • New Zealand
  • Ireland
  • England
  • Wales

Keep an eye on STH Live for video and photo highlights from the event, or if you want to guarantee your place at Rugby World Cup 2019 contact our expert sales team today.