The key to winning the 6 Nations Championship is without doubt based on the ability to generate momentum. By Round 5 of the tournament teams have often created an inevitably that they will win the Championship.
The schedule of fixtures combined with the home and away factor often plays a big role in a team’s capacity to generate the critical momentum required to win the tournament.
Each team has a unique pathway of fixtures through the 6 Nations, which contains critical games that will kill or enhance their momentum.
Wales are attempting to win a unique third 6 Nations in a row. Starting with a home game against Italy should get Wales off to a winning start. But the second game against Ireland in Dublin could stop them in their tracks. But should they pass the Dublin test their next game is against France in Cardiff. That is a game Wales will be confident of winning. The trip to Twickenham is the next big hurdle for Wales. England will want to put last year’s hammering in Cardiff to rest. Finally, Wales host Scotland in Cardiff. Should they reach Round 5 undefeated it is unlikely Scotland will deprive them of a Championship and a Grand Slam.
Crunch Games: Ireland and England
Ireland begin with Scotland in Dublin and should get the job done without too much discomfort. But Wales up second, albeit in Dublin, could derail Ireland’s ambitions. But with Ireland targeting three home wins they should head to Twickenham for game three in rude health. Ireland’s record in Twickenham has been good in recent years and a win there would really put Ireland on track for a championship. An expected win in the penultimate game against Italy at home could send Ireland to Paris with a Championship or even Grand Slam on the line. But Ireland have never won in Paris and Twickenham in the same season.
Crunch Games: England and France
England head to Paris for Round 1 of the Championship and a win there would really generate positive momentum. Should that victory in Paris occur, they will be confident of seeing off Scotland in Edinburgh and Ireland at home. That would put England in a very strong position before their revenge game against Wales at Twickenham in Round 4. If England get to Round 5 unscathed it is extremely unlikely that Italy will derail the chariot in Rome on the final day of the Championship.
Crunch Games: France and Wales
France finished last in the 2013 Championship and need to deliver a strong tournament this year. The first game at home to England is a huge focus for them. Italy in Paris in Round 2 should be a formality for them. But the trip to Cardiff in Round 3 is a game that could unhinge the French challenge. Should they get to Round 4 undefeated, the French will be confident of seeing off Scotland in Edinburgh followed by Ireland in Paris on the final weekend of the tournament.
Crunch Games: England and Wales
Scotland finished 3rd in the 2013 Championship, their highest finish for years. But a trip to Dublin in Round 1 followed by hosting England in Round 2 could see them facing Italy in Round 3 looking for their 1st win of the tournament. The Italian game is in Rome and certainly not a guaranteed win. In Round 4 Scotland host France and then travel to Cardiff for the final game of the Championship. It is a tough fixture list for Scotland with three away games. Not securing a win in Dublin or against England at home in Rounds 1 and 2 could signal a tough season for Scotland.
Crunch Games: Ireland, England, France and Wales
Italy begin with two away games in Cardiff and Paris before hosting Scotland in Rome. Italy tend to judge their 6 Nations success on taking scalps in Rome. Last year it was France and Ireland that gave them their highest finish ever in the 6 Nations of 4th place. This year it is definitely Scotland who are on the menu and they will be less optimistic about England. An away win to Wales, Ireland and France is unlikely so Italy may well make do with just one Championship win this season.
Crunch Game: Scotland