The Six Nations returns next month for the latest edition of the most exciting and dramatic annual competition in world rugby.
England and Ireland wont be discounted though, they have reasons to be confident after memorable Autumn International campaigns.
Here is each teams chances assessed ahead of the 2022 Six Nations Championship:
- Pre-tournament odds: 13/8
- 2021 finish: 2nd
- Last Six Nations win: 2010
- Star player: Antoine Dupont
- One to watch: Melvyn Jaminet
All the signs and the pundits point to this being France’s year to claim the championship for the first time since 2010.
That Grand Slam winning side of 12 years ago featured memorable names the likes of Frédéric Michalak, Sébastien Chabal and 2011 World Rugby Player of the Year Thierry Dusautoir.
This current crop of players are expected to achieve everything that famous squad did and more with a home World Cup just around the corner.
2021 World Rugby Player of the Year Antoine Dupont is the star man but far from the only top quality player in a team of exceptionally gifted athletes.
It’s still a relatively young squad as well so this year’s Six Nations could prove a “coming of age” of sorts for Fabien Galthié and his team.
They will have home advantage in their opening two matches against Italy, who they will be expected to dispatch comfortably, and Ireland who will turn up to make them earn every yard.
Things get even trickier with a trip to Scotland, who beat them in Paris last year, before a monumental clash with reigning champions Wales in Cardiff.
It all leads back to Paris for the very last fixture of the 2022 Championship, Le Crunch. Many are predicting that match to be the title decider and it is expected to add another brutal chapter to the historic rivalry between France and England.
- Pre-tournament odds: 9/4
- 2021 finish: 5th
- Last Six Nations win: 2020
- Star player: Maro Itoje
- One to watch: Freddie Steward
Make no mistake about it, England were well and truly humbled in last year’s Six Nations.
They lost to Scotland at Twickenham for the first time since 1983, were dominated by Wales in Cardiff and went down 32-18 to Ireland in Dublin.
Other than the obligatory win over Italy, the only bright point was their narrow 23-20 win over France which came courtesy of a late Maro Itoje try and Owen Farrell conversion.
So what has changed for Eddie Jones’ side one year on? The answer is that they’ve brought in a fresh crop of exciting new talents to the international fold.
The established stars like Itoje and Farrell have been joined by up and comers like Marcus Smith and Freddie Steward.
The Autumn Internationals saw them beat Australia before gaining a measure of revenge over South Africa for the 2019 Rugby World Cup final loss.
Beating the world champions is impressive but the margin of victory, which was just a single point with a 27-26 scoreline, was narrow and England conceded a shockingly high number of penalties.
However, there was more than enough cause for optimism on the back of those results and the current blend of youth and experience that Jones has established should prove to be serious title contenders this year.
- Pre-tournament odds: 11/2
- 2021 finish: 1st
- Last Six Nations win: 2021
- Star player: Alun Wyn Jones
- One to watch: Taine Basham
Write Wales off at your peril, the reigning champions have never paid any attention to other teams and pre-tournament favourites.
Their only focus is to dominate the competition and a win this year will establish them as the most successful nation in competition history.
They hold the record jointly with England for most titles (39) and this year they’ll be going for 40.
The age-defying Alun Wyn Jones is expected to lead Wales into the competition once again which will be massive with his leadership qualities alone impossible to replace.
They had a rocky Autumn International campaign last year where they lost to South Africa but did manage a somewhat unconvincing win over Australia. The 54-16 hammering at the hands of the All Blacks means little with the Welsh not able to field their full strength XV.
If they can get it right in the pack and dominate the set pieces then the rest will follow, the Welsh backs are as skilful and deadly at finishing as ever so opposition teams will need to shut them down early.
Pre-tournament odds: 9/2
2021 finish: 3rd
Last Six Nations win: 2018
Star player: Tadgh Furlong
One to watch: Caelan Doris
Ireland go into the tournament this year on the back of a memorable 29-20 win over the All Blacks in Dublin.
It was an impressive Autumn International campaign all told for Andy Farrell’s side who hammered Argentina and Japan with complete performances.
The pack is formidable, lead in the front row by Leinster tight head Tadgh Furlong who has scary agility in the loose for a man of his size, and the backs are equally fearsome with Jonny Sexton still providing the spark from fly-half.
There are very little weaknesses to capitalise on in the Ireland squad and that is a big part of what makes them so difficult to break down.
No team will find an easy game, home or away, against Ireland but they will have to travel to both Paris and London this year which means they will have to overcome at least one if not both of the two tournament favourites on their own patches to claim the title.
Pre-tournament odds: 10/1
2021 finish: 4th
Last Six Nations win: 1999 (Five Nations)
Star player: Finn Russell
One to watch: Rufus McLean
Every year seems to be the same story for Scotland, entering the Six Nations with optimism of challenging for the title that ultimately falls by the wayside in the opening weeks.
The Scots struggle for consistency over the five matches but have shown their is no single team that they are incapable of beating with last year’s wins over England and France demonstrating that point.
The current Scotland squad is packed full of quality players but it’s the backs where they really shine.
Ali Price is emerging as one of the top scrum-halves in world rugby while Duhan van der Merwe has that special combination of pace and power but the real threats come from captain Stuart Hogg at fullback and maverick fly-half Finn Russel pulling the strings.
They will welcome France and England to Murrayfield this year and will fancy their chances, as they do against anyone in Edinburgh, but the real tests will come against Ireland and Wales as it’s the away games that usually prove the most difficult for Gregor Townsend’s side.
Once again though, as is the case every year, there is cause for optimism in the dark blue camp.
Pre-tournament odds: 500/1
2021 finish: 6th
Last Six Nations win: Never
Star player: Sebastian Luke Negri
One to watch: Federico Mori
It’s incredible to think that Italy haven’t won a Six Nations match since they beat Scotland 22-19 at Murrayfield back in 2015.
Unlike the other five teams in the competition, the goal of the Italians isn't to win the trophy... it’s to just win a game, any game.
The longer that monkey remains on their back the louder the cries for a system that could see them drop out of the competition become.
It’s hard to see where that victory comes from this year, they’ll probably see the home match with Scotland as there best opportunity but even that will require an off day from the Scots.
However, club rugby in Italy is in the strongest place it has ever been and the national squad does feature more than a handful of skilled players.
No nation will want to be the team that Italy finally ends their poor run against but many neutrals will be hoping, for the integrity of the competition more than anything, that the Azzuri can put in a performance strong enough to get over the line just once.
A message from the editor:
Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our email newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.