Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Global Scope: RBS 6 Nations Preview

The RBS Six Nations Championship is an annual rugby union tournament that is played internationally between England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, France, and Italy. When the match between Wales and Ireland begin on February 2nd, it will be the start of the tournament's 14th edition under its current format and name. However, the Six Nations is the successor to the Five Nations Championship and the Home Nations Championship. The Home Nations, played between England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales was the first ever international rugby union tournament. The tournament's format and name switched around from Home Nations Championship (1883 - 1909 and 1932 - 1939) to Five Nations Championship (1910 - 1931 and 1947 - 1999) until it reached its current format and name as The Six Nations Championship. Naturally, since the tournament is played by the top 6 European rugby powers, the winner is referred to as the European Champions.

This year's tournament promises to be a very entertaining one, with a lot to look out for. 


England won the tournament in 2011, and last year came close and ended up as the runners up. I pick England as one of my two favorites to win this year's edition. They seem to be making a lot of progress since head coach Stuart Lancaster took over the job in March of 2012. In both November and December England played 4 test matches against Fiji, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. Even though the team showed some inconsistencies losing to Australia and South Africa 20-14 and 16-15 respectively, they did indeed encourage their followers by crushing Fiji 54-12 and convincingly beating  current World Cup champions, the All Blacks, by a score of 38-21. 


The French to me are always a tough pick. They would be the other favorites to win the tournament, together with England, but they seem to be very erratic and inconsistent with their performances. I'm looking to see a strong performance from their experienced fly-half Frederic Michalak, who shined with a total of 3 tries scored in a test match against Samoa last November. You can never write the French off, they have the talent to beat any team in the world if they enter the pitch focused and on top of their game plan. 


The Welsh come into the 2013 Six Nations Championship as the defending champions, but other than that 2012 was not the best year for them. After winning their 3rd Six Nations title defeating France 16-9, they did not do very well in their test matches to end the year. Losing to Samoa 26-19, New Zealand 33-10, and piling up 3 narrow defeats against Australia. However, the Welsh could still make their presence felt with a heap of young talent, most notably Alex Cuthbert, the 22 year old winger who scored the only try in the trophy lifting victory versus France.   

Ireland is probably the biggest wild card coming into the Six Nations Championship this year. Similar to Wales, Ireland has some very promising young players coming up, but their fate lies on top of their proven veterans such as fly-half Ronan O'Gara and Centre Brian O'Driscoll, who is in my opinion one of the greatest rugby union players of all time.  


Scotland has been the northern hemisphere's typical underachiever for a very long time. After yet another disappointing loss, this time to Tonga 21-15, their head coach Andy Robinson resigned from his position and left then assistant coach Scott Johnson as the interim head coach. Don't expect much from the Scottish side in this year's tournament, but maybe with some fresh ideas in the locker room, coach Scott Johnson could bring out the best in his players.


Italy has often been the laughing stock for the top sides in European rugby, but slowly they have been growing and improving every year. Relying heavily on their forwards' play, they are not a team that usually impresses everyone with their beautiful running game. It is hard to put Italy as one of the contenders still, but they can shock some people with a convincing performance in this year's championship.

Royal Bank of Scotland extend sponsorship deal with The Six Nations Championship
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has recently agreed to a new £44 million sponsorship deal for the Six Nations Championship. The bank, in large part owned by the taxpayers in the United Kingdom, beat HSBC to be able to secure the deal. The intense competition with HSBC made RBS have to increase their offer by over 70% to secure the rights. The new deal guarantees the rights to the Royal Bank of Scotland for four more years, extending their partnership from 2003. RBS head of brand and marketing Gregory Thorpe commented: "The championship is a source of pride and passion for many of our customers, from the living room to the board room."