It was difficult to pinpoint, but this year’s Six Nations kickoff had a distinct atmosphere. Perhaps it was the Netflix cameras stationed at every corner, attempting to broadcast rugby to a larger worldwide audience. Perhaps it has something to do with Eddie Jones’s absence from the media. A solitary acoustic musician serenaded the hackers as they ate their lunch, which was undoubtedly a first.
Or, maybe, it was a sign of a professional sport making a serious attempt to improve. One by one, the head coaches of the contending countries took the microphone and talked intelligently and candidly. Controversial topics, like as the new waist-high tackle trial in England, were addressed directly rather than sidestepped. And everyone agreed that the following several weeks would be unforgettable.
Rugby union’s big chance to shine
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The unsaid fact is that this is rugby’s big break. With a massive World Cup approaching in France this year, the game has never had a greater opportunity to entice newcomers or floating votes. Of course, there are somber athlete welfare concerns to address, but there could scarcely be a more attractive championship on the horizon. If you get things right today, your future will be a lot brighter.
Steve Borthwick, the new England head coach, talked extremely eloquently, not least on his wish for his players to have no regrets for Rugby. “As a player, I had the honor of representing England 57 times. I had the distinct honor of captaining my nation 21 times. Now when I look back, I regret many of the things I didn’t accomplish. I always put in the effort, but did I ever feel like I used all of my talents on the field? Did I ever feel like I give all I had? Would you want me to turn back the clock and try again? “Of course, I would.”
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As a result, he wants his England players to make a concerted effort to capitalize on the opportunity. “I want to assist these young men from making the same errors I did. I don’t want them to have regrets when they’re elderly and have no hair like me. I don’t want them to look back and say, ‘I wish I’d done that.’ Let’s get started. One thing I can guarantee you is that we will make errors. But, win or lose, I want us to be better the next week. I’m going to be true to myself and not play mind games like Rugby. That will be left to other coaches.”
Six Nations campaigning Rugby
Borthwick did admit, though, that given the strength of many of their adversaries, altering England may not happen quickly. While his team begins the season with two home games against Scotland and Italy, Jones’ unexpected resignation has given his replacement little time to reinvent the wheel. “The truth is that we’re a touch behind schedule. That was evident in the fall. Every English fan wants this England side to play better than they did before. I also feel a desire among the players to return for Rugby to the field and make things right.”
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Warren Gatland, who led Wales to a grand slam in his first season in command in 2008, believes England may experience a “new coach bounce” given the number of resources at their disposal of Rugby. “I always believe England should be among the top two or three sides in the world,” Gatland said. In practically the same sentence, he stated his belief that Wales, with several experienced players returning, can improve significantly on their November troubles. “If you ask them to sprint through a brick wall, their first question will be, ‘What do you want us to do when we get to the other side?'”
There will be no lack of incentive in France, either. The reigning grand slam winners are missing certain players due to injury, but head coach Fabien Galthié, who was dressed in powerful white trainers and dark glasses for the cameras outside County Hall in London, is sure that his team would not be resting on their laurels in the coming weeks. “Are we defending or pursuing a trophy?” he questioned rhetorically.
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“That’s the issue we’re debating. Les Bleus’ return to Dublin in round two might be vital, but Ireland’s Andy Farrell and Johnny Sexton are already pressing his squad to embrace the buzz that comes with their official status as the top team in the world. “The pressure is more internal than external, but if external pressure begins to creep in, it’s good for us to have to cope with it,” Farrell said. “For obvious reasons, we want to improve for what’s ahead of Rugby.”
Sexton, who will be fit to captain the team against Wales in the first game in Cardiff, is also looking forward to his last Championship as a player. “It’s such a unique competition, and it’s quite difficult to win.” Scotland, which has not won a crown since the last year of the Five Nations in 1999, is in a similarly determined attitude, while Italy, the presumed underdogs, has beaten both Australia and Wales in the last 11 months. Whoever wins this season’s Guinness-sponsored competition should make for intriguing television watching for Rugby.
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