The 2016 RBS 6 Nations launched in style on Wednesday morning at the Hurlingham Club and the 6 captains present an intriguing mix of the old and the new.
There are 3 brand new skippers for this year’s Championship, which gets underway in 10 days’ time on Saturday 6 February when France welcome Italy to the Stade de France – and they are all hookers.
Rory Best takes the armband for 2-time defending champions Ireland after Paul O’Connell’s retirement, Eddie Jones’ England have Dylan Hartley at the helm and France under Guy Noves will be led by Guilhem Guirado.
Those 3 were joined by Scotland’s Greig Laidlaw, Wales’ Sam Warburton and Italy’s Sergio Parisse on Wednesday – 3 captains that have led their country with great distinction for many years.
Best’s Ireland will be hoping to make history this year as the 1st ever team to win the Championship for 3 years in a row and the Ulster hooker is confident his side are up to the task.
“Whenever you come into the RBS 6 Nations camp for the 1st time you put everything that has happened with your club sides behind you,” he said.
“The provinces have not done as well in the Champions Cup this season, but I think once we get out there we’ll see that we’ve got a good mix of young players and more experienced guys, so we feel like we’ve got a good balance.
“Right across the board, you have to have a good squad to win things. We’ve done that in the past, and feel like we’ve got people who can come in if they have to and will be excited to do so.”
The Welsh injury curse:
Ireland kick off their campaign by welcoming Wales to the Aviva Stadium on Sunday 7 February and Warren Gatland will be hoping for a clean bill of health from his Wales squad.
Long-term absentees Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Webb and Scott Williams will miss out after an injury-ravaged World Cup, but Warburton’s return from knee ankle ligament damage is a welcome boost.
“I was a little bit worried when I did the injury (in November), I just missed out on an operation which was good news,” said Warburton.
“I got back and played Calvisano last weekend, if there is an option to jump in again this weekend for the Blues and sharpen the tools that will be great.
“We were chucked in the deep end with injuries at the World Cup, it’s normal to have 3 or 4. But it was great in that we played tough teams, in a hostile environment and came through OK.
“If they put in a good shift in World Cup, they can do it in Six Nations.”
6 Nations 2016 Launch – Captains Q & A session: