DAN BIGGAR’S GUIDE TO THE SIX NATIONS: With key stars missing, anything could happen… bring on the shocks!
This will be the first Six Nations I have not been involved in for 12 years and I am looking forward to watching from the sidelines while focusing on the job at hand at Toulon.
It was very strange not to receive a selection email from the Welsh Rugby Union this month. Caroline Morgan, the Wales team secretary, mocked me with a fake one that read: ‘Due to your advancing years and decision to take the money in France, we have decided not to pick you!’
I will be at the England v Wales game as a pundit for ITV, but for most of the tournament I will be on the bench. Here’s what I’m looking forward to seeing…
Dan Biggar will not be involved in the Six Nations after retiring from international duty last year
CONTINUE FROM THE BIG NAMES
This will be the first Six Nations for a long time where some countries will have to do without key players. Ireland don’t have Johnny Sexton right now. Owen Farrell will not play for England. France will be without Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack.
No one has a clue what’s going to happen and I’m looking forward to the unpredictable nature of what’s to come.
Many are saying this is France’s tournament to lose, but being without Dupont and Ntamack must have an impact. I think we will see some shocks.
Johnny Sexton called time on his Ireland career after last year’s World Cup in France
Owen Farrell is also unavailable for England after stepping away from the international scene
France will miss their inspirational half-back pairing of Antoine Dupont (centre) and Romain Ntamack (right).
SAINTS ALIVE FOR ENGLAND!
When you lose key players it disrupts the cohesion of a team and one way to counter this is with familiar combinations.
With Farrell absent, Steve Borthwick could replace the Harlequins partnership of Danny Care and Marcus Smith at no. 9 and no. 10 picks, or Northampton pair Alex Mitchell and Fin Smith.
It will be interesting to see who England go for at half-back for the Italy match, because George Ford has not played that much rugby. You could make a good argument for England picking the majority of the Northampton back line.
Mitchell, Fin Smith, Tommy Freeman and George Furbank have been on fire this season and my old team have probably been the good team in Europe for the last two months.
Alex Mitchell looks set to play a key role for England during this year’s Six Nations series
The talented flyhalf Fin Smith (pictured) can play for England with his club mate
KICK MORE ORDER OF THE DAY
Even if England go with a Saints-dominated backline, don’t expect the players to play the same way they do for their club. As much as it would be great to see England attack like Harlequins or Saints, it’s not going to happen.
That’s because defenses are so well driven at Test level and mistakes are punished in an instant. You can’t afford to turn the ball over in your own half because it kills you.
At last year’s World Cup, the numbers showed that the more you kicked the ball, the better your chance of winning. Don’t expect that to change.
It looks like kicking will be the order of the day again during this year’s tournament
WALES OUT TO SHOCK
Having retired from Wales I am excited to see Sam Costelow at no. 10 go. He’s the team’s only real out-and-out midfielder and I want to see him make the team his, rather than just playing in It. There is a big difference.
Sam impressed me at the World Cup with how he led team meetings and gave information.
I know from personal experience that being number 10 for Wales comes with a lot of scrutiny, but Sam has the ability and determination to handle it. I wish him all the best.
Sam Costelow (pictured) now has the chance to fill the void left by Biggar
FRANCE ROAD EXIT
France are playing their three home games away from Paris because of the upcoming Olympics and I think that’s great.
Last year’s World Cup showed France to have some incredible rugby cities. It would be amazing for the country for them to play in Marseille, Lille and Lyon. I played in Lyon and Marseille with Wales and they are fantastic places. In my opinion, Marseille is the best stadium in France and I’m going to try to get down there for the Ireland game on Friday.
Living in France made me realize what a great rugby nation it is. ‘Grow the game’ is rugby’s buzzword at the moment and I think France will definitely do that with their road trip.
PLEASE STOP THE ABUSE
The Six Nations is a great tournament with so much passion, but it’s not life or death. I really hope everyone connected to rugby can enjoy it this year without any negativity or abuse.
Since the World Cup, we’ve seen Farrell, and referees like Wayne Barnes, talk about the stick they’ve had on social media and the impact it’s had on them.
I’m not on Twitter or Instagram so I’m sheltered from all this, but we have to get it out of rugby. Let’s hope it’s a positive Six Nations with none of that going on.
Wayne Barnes was sent to the Rugby World Cup final. It has to stop now