The Six Nations Championship is an annual rugby union competition between the national teams of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales. First held in 1883 as the Home Nations Championship between the four Home Nations of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the tournament was expanded to include France in 1910 and Italy in 2000.
The opening weekend of the 2024 Six Nations sees three intriguing fixtures between the competing nations. Defending champions Ireland travel to France, looking to get their campaign off to a winning start against a talented French side. Italy host England in Rome, with the Azzurri aiming for a historic first victory over the English. Meanwhile, Wales and Scotland renew their rivalry in Cardiff, as the Scots target back-to-back wins over the Welsh for the first time since 2002.
With the Guinness Six Nations showcasing the Northern Hemisphere’s top test rugby sides, the opening weekend provides an early indicator of which teams could challenge for the title and Grand Slam as the tournament progresses. Ireland and France are expected to be the main contenders, but England and Scotland will also have high hopes. For Italy and Wales, the goal will be to cause some upsets and avoid the wooden spoon.
France vs Ireland Match Preview
The opening match of the 2024 Six Nations Championship sees France host Ireland at the Orange Velodrome in Marseille. These two sides contested an epic encounter during last year’s tournament, with Ireland eventually running out 32-19 winners in Dublin.
That victory extended Ireland’s winning streak over France to three matches. Andy Farrell’s men have built tremendous momentum recently, backing up their 2023 Six Nations triumph by completing an historic test series win over New Zealand. Ireland are led by the experienced half-back pairing of scrum-half Conor Murray and fly-half Johnny Sexton.
France will be determined to make home advantage count in Marseille. Les Bleus may have suffered defeat at the Aviva Stadium 12 months ago, but they still went on to capture the 2022 Grand Slam. Full-back Thomas Ramos and winger Damian Penaud are two attacking threats Fabien Galthie will look to unleash against the Irish.
This mouth-watering opener is sure to set the tone for what promises to be an intriguing 2024 Six Nations campaign. Ireland and France appear the frontrunners for the title, so this first round clash could prove pivotal in determining the eventual champions.
Italy vs England Match Preview
Italy will take on England at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday 3rd February during the opening weekend of the 2024 Six Nations Championship.
Italy and England have contested a total of 30 rugby test matches since their first meeting in 1991. England maintain a 100% record having won every match. The two teams last met during the 2023 Six Nations when England claimed a 31-14 bonus-point victory over Italy at Twickenham.
England have been dominant in matches between the two nations, winning all 30 previous test matches. Italy are yet to record a victory against England. The closest Italy came was a 15-19 loss at Twickenham in 2015.
For Italy, number 8 Michele Lamaro will be a key player. The captain led Italy in tackles during the 2023 Six Nations. England will look to veteran fly-half Owen Farrell to control the game. Farrell scored a try and 13 points when England defeated Italy in 2023.
England will enter the match as heavy favorites given their past record against Italy. However, Italy showed improvement during the 2023 Six Nations, defeating Wales and giving France a scare in Rome. England’s form was inconsistent last year. If Italy can start strongly they may be able to challenge England, especially in front of their home fans.
Wales vs Scotland Match Preview
Wales will face Scotland at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday 3rd February during the opening weekend of the 2024 Six Nations Championship.
Scotland scored five tries as they defeated Wales 35-7 during the 2023 Championship. This was Scotland’s largest ever victory over Wales in the history of the Six Nations.
Wales and Scotland have contested a total of 129 rugby test matches since their first meeting in 1883. Wales have won 75 of those matches, whilst Scotland have won 51 matches. There have also been three drawn matches between the two nations.
Scotland have won three of the last five Six Nations meetings between the sides, including last season’s 35-7 victory at Murrayfield. Prior to that, Wales had won five consecutive matches against Scotland in the championship.
- Scotland fly-half Finn Russell was instrumental in last season’s victory, dictating play and scoring a try. Russell will once again be the main attacking threat for Scotland.
- Wales captain Justin Tipuric will look to lead from the back row and guide his team around the field with his experience.
- Scotland scrum-half Ali Price’s quick pass from the breakdown will test the Welsh defense.
- Scotland come into this match on the back of a successful autumn series that saw them defeat Australia, Fiji and Argentina.
- Wales suffered a disappointing autumn campaign, losing to New Zealand, Argentina and Georgia. They will be hoping for a turnaround in form.
- Scotland are currently ranked 7th in the world, five places above 12th placed Wales.
This match promises to be a close encounter between the old rivals. Scotland will be aiming to make it back-to-back wins over Wales, while Wales will be desperate to start their Six Nations campaign with a victory on home soil.
France Team News
France will go into their opening match against Ireland with a strong squad full of world-class talent. Several big names are unavailable for selection due to injury.
- Star scrum-half Antoine Dupont is still recovering from a knee injury sustained during last year’s Autumn Nations Series. His quick passing and clever kicking game will be sorely missed.
- Experienced second row Bernard Le Roux is ruled out with a thigh strain. His physicality and leadership in the pack will need replacing.
- Winger Damian Penaud suffered an ankle injury playing for Clermont Auvergne. His electric pace out wide will be a significant loss.
- Scrum-half Nolann Le Garrec receives his first call up after impressive form for Racing 92. At only 21, he represents an exciting prospect for the future.
- Lock Thibaud Flament is rewarded for his consistently powerful performances at Toulouse. He provides excellent lineout options.
Players to Watch
- Captain and scrum-half Antoine Dupont, if passed fit, will be central to France’s hopes. His all-round game is unmatched.
- Flanker Anthony Jelonch was player of the tournament in 2022. His work rate and physicality are extraordinary.
- Fly-half Romain Ntamack has matured into a composed conductor of France’s exciting backline.
Ireland Team News
Ireland head coach Billy Harte has named a 35-man squad ahead of their opening Six Nations match against France in Marseille.
- Flanker Josh van der Flier is unavailable due to a shoulder injury suffered during Leinster’s Champions Cup clash with Toulouse last month. He will likely miss the entirety of the Six Nations.
- Fullback Hugo Keenan is fully fit after recovering from a knee injury and is included in the squad.
- Prop Tadhg Furlong is also fully recovered from a calf strain and is expected to start against France.
Three uncapped players have been included in Ireland’s Six Nations squad:
- Connacht prop Sam Illo makes the squad after some impressive performances this season. The 23-year old provides depth at tighthead prop behind Furlong.
- Leinster flanker Scott Penny earns his first call-up after van der Flier’s injury. The 21-year old is an athletic and skilled back row who will add dynamism to the squad.
- Munster scrum-half Paddy Patterson joins the squad as cover for Conor Murray after some eye-catching displays.
Players to Watch
- With Johnny Sexton likely unavailable for the France game, Joey Carbery is expected to start at fly-half. Carbery will be looking to stake his claim as Sexton’s long term successor.
- James Lowe returns to the left wing position where he will aim to replicate his impressive form from last year’s Six Nations.
- Number eight Caelan Doris is set for a big Championship on the back of his outstanding displays for Leinster this season.
Italy Team News
Italy head coach Kieran Crowley has named a 35-man squad for the opening weekend of the 2024 Six Nations Championship.
There are two uncapped players included in Crowley’s squad – Zebre flanker Matteo Nocera and Benetton centre Filippo Drago. Both players impressed during the United Rugby Championship and will be hoping to make their test debuts against England.
Veteran hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini has been recalled to the squad at the age of 39. Ghiraldini last played for Italy in 2018 and will provide valuable experience.
Skipper Michele Lamaro is set to lead Italy from openside flanker. Lamaro took over the captaincy in 2021 and will earn his 23rd test cap against England.
In the backs, Paolo Garbisi and Tommaso Allan will compete for the fly-half position. Garbisi started Italy’s last test match against Australia in November 2022.
Padovani has recovered from a knee injury and is likely to start on the wing. He forms an experienced back three with fullback Ange Capuozzo and left winger Montanna Ioane.
Lock Niccolo Cannone misses out due to a shoulder injury. He was Italy’s top lineout winner during the 2022 Six Nations. His absence is a major blow for the Azzurri.
England Team News
England head coach Eddie Jones has named a 35-man squad for the opening round of the Six Nations Championship.
- Fly-half Marcus Smith is unavailable for selection due to a shoulder injury sustained during Harlequins’ Premiership clash with Leicester Tigers on 14 January. Owen Farrell is likely to start at fly-half.
- Locks Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes have overcome recent injuries and are included in the squad. Their availability boosts England’s options in the second row.
- Number eight Billy Vunipola is ruled out with a knee injury. Sam Simmonds and Alex Dombrandt will battle for the starting jersey.
- Leicester prop Ellis Genge has been named as captain following a fine season with the Tigers. At 28 years old, Genge becomes England’s youngest captain since Will Carling.
- Northampton fullback Tommy Freeman and London Irish flanker Ben Donnell have received their first call ups after impressive Premiership form. Both are pushing for debuts.
Players to Watch
- With Smith absent, all eyes will be on Owen Farrell’s performance at fly-half. Farrell will look to control the game and unleash England’s dangerous backline.
- New skipper Ellis Genge has matured into a world class prop and leader. He will aim to set the tone up front against Italy’s pack.
- Centres Henry Slade and Joe Marchant impressed during the November internationals. Their creative partnership in midfield could unlock Italy’s defense.
Wales Team News
- Flanker Justin Tipuric is expected to be available after recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in November. Tipuric will bring vital experience to the Welsh back row.
- Scrum-half Tomos Williams is a doubt after suffering a hamstring injury during training. With 80 caps for Wales, Williams’ absence would be a big loss. Gareth Davies is likely to start if Williams is ruled out.
- Winger Louis Rees-Zammit should be fit to play following an ankle injury. His pace and finishing will be key for Wales out wide.
- Uncapped duo Mason Grady and Joe Hawkins have been called up to the squad. Grady, a centre, currently plays for Cardiff and has been in fine form this season. Hawkins, a fly-half, represents Ospreys and is seen as one for the future at just 20 years old.
Players to Watch
- Fullback Leigh Halfpenny will make his first Wales appearance since July 2021 after recovering from a serious knee injury. Halfpenny’s goalkicking and aerial ability will be invaluable.
- Flanker Jac Morgan has emerged as a rising star, winning Welsh Player of the Year in 2022. With just 15 caps, the 24-year-old will be looking to build on his reputation.
- Number 8 Taulupe Faletau will win his 100th test cap against Scotland. His physicality and work rate will be essential for Wales at the gain line and breakdown.
Scotland Team News
Coach Gregor Townsend has named his Scotland squad ahead of their Six Nations opener against Wales in Cardiff.
- Stand-off Finn Russell will once again be the main playmaker for Scotland. Russell was in fine form during the autumn internationals last year.
- Flanker Hamish Watson is a dynamic ball carrier who always gives 100% for the cause. His breakdown work is excellent.
- Duhan van der Merwe scored Scotland’s only try when they defeated Wales 35-7 last year. The powerful winger will look to cross the whitewash again in Cardiff.
- Scrum-half Ben White has received his first Scotland call-up. White has been in impressive form for London Irish this season.
- Second row Glen Young also comes into the squad. Young will provide cover for the injured Jonny Gray.
- Lock Jonny Gray will miss the start of the tournament with a hamstring injury. His physicality and lineout prowess will be missed.
- Back-row Magnus Bradbury is also unavailable due to a rib injury. Bradbury will likely miss at least the opening two rounds.
Scotland are aiming to build on their strong 2023 Championship performance. Beating Wales in Cardiff would be the perfect start to their campaign.
Sources Six Nations Guide