Jump to main content



Schmidt And Best Join Fellow Coaches And Captains At Six Nations Launch

Schmidt And Best Join Fellow Coaches And Captains At Six Nations Launch

The 2018 NatWest 6 Nations was launched in London today, with all the coaches and captains from the men’s and women’s teams in attendance to kick off two months of thrilling rugby.

The Championship starts next week when Wales host Scotland in what is the most highly-anticipated NatWest 6 Nations in decades. England are the two-time defending champions but the other five nations also have ambitions of lifting the trophy when the Championship concludes on Saturday, March 17.

Speaking at the launch, Six Nations Chairman Pat Whelan said: “The 2017 Championship saw us achieve some record numbers across the likes of TV and digital platforms. This year, we will look to beat those numbers as we get set for the most competitive Championship in years with England looking for a historical third consecutive Championship win, while we can expect strong performances from the other five nations who will be vying for that coveted crown.”

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

England could lift the trophy at Twickenham where they host Ireland on the final weekend – but Joe Schmidt’s men look strong after winning all three GUINNESS Series games in November. They open the tournament away to France on Saturday week (February 3, before heading back to the Aviva Stadium for three successive home matches.

Schmidt is looking forward to a testing opener in Paris, saying: “I know Jacques Brunel (who replaced Guy Noves as France coach just last month). I’ve coached against Jacques before. He was coaching at Perpignan when I was at Clermont and he beat us in the Top 14 final.

“I know (lineout coach) Julien Bonnaire incredibly well. I coached Julien for three years. His lineout acumen and lineout athleticism are second to none. The French have got some real quality operators. Now how quickly can they gel? That’s the challenge.

“I’m not sure how much homework people are doing on some of the new selections they’ve made, but I’m impressed. When a kid is 19 as (Matthieu) Jalibert is, and he’s doing what he’s doing, I think he’s a real threat. And (Anthony) Belleau is 21, his performances for Toulon have been top level. There’s going to be some interesting challenges for us.

“I have the utmost respect for Guy Noves and what he brought to Toulouse – another man who taught me a few lessons when I was in Clermont. I think some of the players he started to bring through like (Sekou) Macalou and the like, they’re going to flourish and I just hope it’s rounds 2, 3, 4 and 4 that that happens.”

Ireland captain Rory Best was asked about the impressive form of the provinces in Europe, with three of the sides earning home quarter-finals and Ulster only missing out on the last-eight on the final day, and how beneficial it could be as the national team look to mount a challenge for their first Six Nations title since 2015.

“I think from our point of view it’s really important that we turn the page very quickly, away from Europe. I think when you look at it, three provinces with home quarter-finals and going into the last round, we (Ulster) had a chance to win a game to get a quarter-final and a bonus point to get a home quarter-final which would have been unprecedented,” explained Best, who was attending his third Six Nations launch as Ireland skipper.

“I think in that top level of club (rugby) the Irish provinces are doing well and going strongly. The important thing for us is that we take that bit of form from Europe and take that bit of momentum from winning games, but ultimately you park all the provincial stuff when you get together as a national side.

“The momentum created by home quarter-finals and putting yourselves in a position for that is only useful if we can channel it in the direction of the national team, and it is important that we do get that right.”

Schmidt and Best flew to London, taking time out from Ireland’s training camp in Oliva Nova in southern Spain. Ireland will hope to get the best out of their short Spanish stay and hit the ground running against les Bleus next week.

“Part of it was the players felt it (the camp in Spain) would be a good idea, I felt it was a good idea as well. We knew this season would be particularly tough, it’s been seven tough weeks so the first thing is to regenerate a bit then really roll our sleeves up,” said Schmidt.

“We get into our own little bubble, the conditions are consistent. In the past occasionally we’ve had a really heavy frost which left the ground hard to train on. It’s hard to do organisational work. Just to try to get everyone organised again it’s good to be able to do it in consistent and relatively fine conditions.”

The Ireland head coach added prop James Cronin to his squad for the opening two rounds of the Championship, owing to Dave Kilcoyne’s knee injury, while he is positive about the chances of Jacob Stockdale (dead leg) being fit for selection against France.

“Dave won’t make the first match, he may come into contention for the second match (against Italy), I think. He would be a real outside chance for the first game. Jacob should be right to train by the end of this week and then he’d be in the mix for France.”