|Dates: 6 February to twenty March|
|Protection: Watch dwell protection & highlights on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, Linked TV’s and on-line; hearken to match commentaries, reveals and podcasts on BBC Radio 5 Stay, Sports activities Further and BBC Sounds; observe textual content protection on the BBC Sport web site and cellular app; additional protection accessible in Wales, Scotland and Northern Eire.|
A Six Nations with out followers was as soon as an implausible idea.
Because the 2021 match begins behind closed doorways, many supporters might be grateful to have any worldwide rugby in any respect.
Laborious-fought wins will not be rewarded by roaring crowds, however with a British and Irish Lions tour resulting from start in 5 months – coronavirus allowing – the house nations nonetheless have a lot to play for.
If the previous yr has taught us something, it’s to count on the surprising so who is aware of what the world might be like come the top of the match in March?
However here’s a have a look at the title contenders, gamers to look at and the scenario with followers because the championship will get set to start on Saturday.
Who will win the 2021 Six Nations?
England received the protracted 2020 match partially due to a shedding bonus level earned in Paris on the opening weekend – a incontrovertible fact that drew some criticism on the time.
This time round Eddie Jones’ facet – Autumn Nations Cup champions in December – are favourites to win the match once more, with a France staff filled with youthful star energy their essential rivals.
England’s fourth-round match at dwelling to France on 13 March could possibly be the decide of the video games – a part of a troublesome run for Les Bleus which additionally features a tough journey to Dublin in spherical two.
The 2020 champions are maybe the worst hit by Covid. Head coach Jones missed the beginning of England’s coaching camp together with two different coaches as a result of he was self-isolating.
Assistant coach Jason Ryles was anticipated to hitch the squad however in January determined it was not an excellent time to relocate to England from Australia.
Jones has additionally been restricted to a 28-man squad to scale back the danger of spreading coronavirus.
France coach Fabien Galthie could have a wealth of gamers to select from however he must make do with out injured fly-half Romain Ntamack, who impressed alongside scrum-half Antoine Dupont in final yr’s match.
However as Les Bleus proved after they had been pressured to play the Autumn Nations Cup remaining with out lots of their common starters, there are lots of younger gamers ready within the wings able to step up.
|England 2-1||France 5-1|
|Eire 11-1||Wales 40-1|
|Scotland 80-1||Italy 500-1|
Can returning Russell encourage Scotland?
Racing 92 star Finn Russell’s autumn return to the Scotland set-up following exile for breaching staff protocol was shortlived after he sustained an damage on the finish of October.
However the fly-half, who many followers hope will begin for the Lions, is match once more and has been named in Gregor Townsend’s 35-man squad.
Scotland loved combined outcomes on the finish of final yr, successful their remaining Six Nations sport earlier than ending fourth within the Autumn Nations Cup, however Russell’s return affords hope for 2021.
Eire beat Townsend’s facet to complete third within the autumn match, giving head coach Andy Farrell a satisfying finish to the yr after lacklustre shows in opposition to England and Georgia.
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has stated his facet has what it takes to win the Six Nations, regardless of shedding 4 video games and ending fifth in 2020.
The New Zealander has received three out of 10 aggressive video games since he took cost in late 2019 and has turned to extra skilled gamers like flanker Dan Lydiate in an try to get out of the rut.
As soon as once more, Italy can have a battle on their fingers to win a sport and a attainable remaining look for legendary quantity eight Sergio Parisse could possibly be probably the most thrilling a part of their marketing campaign.
|14:15 GMT, Saturday, 6 February: Italy v France, Stadio Olimpico|
|16:45 GMT, Saturday, 6 February: England v Scotland, Twickenham|
|15:00 GMT, Sunday, 7 February: Wales v Eire, Principality Stadium|
May followers return earlier than the top of the match?
The championship will start in empty stadiums with all nations beneath some type of coronavirus restrictions.
Scottish Rugby stated in January entry to matches at Murrayfield in opposition to Eire and Italy – on 14 and 20 March – was “beneath present overview”, with Scotland’s first two video games in opposition to England and Wales behind closed doorways.
Two thousand England followers had been allowed to return to Twickenham for the facet’s remaining Autumn Nations Cup sport beneath tier two coronavirus restrictions, however it’s unclear whether or not the nation will return to the same tier system following lockdown.
Wales are but to play in entrance of followers because the pandemic started because the Welsh authorities didn’t observe England in permitting supporters again in sure tiers.
Supporters weren’t allowed at Eire’s final dwelling sport in December and followers in Dublin proceed to appear an unlikely prospect after the nation returned to a full lockdown on the finish of 2020.
The French authorities decreed that its golf equipment mustn’t play in European Cup competitions in January however it’s hoped strict journey quarantine guidelines won’t have an effect on the Six Nations, with exemption functions for sides enjoying in France pending.
Both manner welcoming followers again to video games will not be excessive on the agenda, whereas Italian sport has not seen crowds since October.
Who’re those to look at?
Scotland’s newest recruit Cameron Redpath represented England Underneath-20s and has beforehand been known as up by Eddie Jones with out successful a full cap.
Former British and Irish Lions wing Ugo Monye described the 21-year-old Bathtub centre as “the true deal” and expressed disappointment that Redpath – son of former Scotland captain Bryan – wouldn’t be pulling on an England jersey this spring.
Wales scrum-half Tomos Williams will not be counted as a younger gun at 26 with 20 caps to his title however he could possibly be a darkish horse for the 9 jersey on the upcoming Lions tour.
Conor Murray and Ben Youngs are additionally within the working however there does appear to be a slight opening at scrum-half that Williams might make the most of if he can see off competitors from compatriot Gareth Davies.
When France had been with out a number of key gamers within the autumn, sevens wing Gabin Villiere was a type of who stepped in.
He impressed with scything runs and count on extra of the identical if Galthie offers him his likelihood once more.
Wasps again Paolo Odogwu has already elicited reward from Eddie Jones earlier than even incomes a world cap.
The England head coach stated Odogwu has an intuition “you possibly can’t coach”. That has been evident within the Premiership this season, the place he leads the league in clear breaks.
New Zealand-born Eire wing James Lowe left followers wanting extra after a formidable debut in opposition to Wales within the Autumn Nations Cup.
The 28-year-old was rewarded together with his first worldwide attempt to he might be wanting so as to add to that tally within the coming weeks.
Italy head coach Franco Smith’s staff has a median age of simply 24 and sitting on the decrease finish of the size is 20-year-old fly-half Paolo Garbisi.
Final yr, Garbisi went from enjoying for membership Petrarca within the Italian league to incomes a primary begin for his nation and he’s anticipated to proceed on that steep trajectory in 2021.
Will it’s entertaining?
Questioning the leisure worth of a Six Nations could seem unusual, however there have been complaints concerning the type of play used within the Autumn Nations Cup.
Whereas there have been occasional marvel tries – like Jonny Could’s effort in opposition to Eire – some video games noticed few offloads and extreme use of a repetitive kicking sport.
A sudden-death thriller between England and France did convey the autumn match to an thrilling finish and extra of the identical can be a welcome distraction over the subsequent two months.
As we strategy the mid-point within the four-year World Cup cycle, followers might be hoping coaches use this Six Nations as an opportunity to experiment with new types of play.
A Lions tour looming could properly entice a bit extra aptitude out of dwelling nations gamers, that means they gentle up stadiums with or with out followers.