With the Natwest Six Nations well underway we’re looking forward to two more cracking weekends of rugby as we see Rounds 4 and 5 battled out. We sat down with Adam Jones and Nick Easter for a pint of Heineken to find out what they think of the tournament so far and where they feel it’s headed.
Having faced one another in many national matches, as well as being teammates for the Harlequins, we were interested to see what they predicted for the tournament. Nick is, perhaps unsurprisingly, more positive about England’s chances than Adam. ‘I’m backing England for the Grand Slam. I predict they’ll grow in strength as the competition progresses and get some injured players back.’
England’s growing injury list is troubling, but it is giving opportunities to debutants to get their chance to shine. We wondered who we should be looking out for. ‘Sam Simmonds and Lewis Boyce,’ says Nick. ‘I do like Sam Underhill,’ says Adam. ‘I have a soft spot for him as he used to play for the Ospreys.’
Adam’s passion for the Welsh side is absolute. ‘I feel they could be genuine contenders and certainly expect us to win the home games. Away matches are trickier, but the last two grand slams were won this way so it isn’t impossible.’
Italy’s performance in the Six Nations has been patchy for a while and we wondered what they felt about their place in the tournament. Perhaps the time has come to consider other countries with strong potential to be considered? Adam is keen to give Italy a few more years to prove itself, but suggests Georgia as a possible worthy replacement. Meanwhile Nick feels a promotion/relegation system might be in order. ‘Other countries should be considered for it to be a world game.’
Adam is slightly more guarded. He sees Ireland leading the pack, followed by England and, of course, Wales. ‘I’m sad not to be including Scotland to the list, but I just don’t feel their squad has enough strength and depth to make it. It’s always hard with only two pro teams, but I think they are definitely building. One to watch!’ Nick agrees: ‘This won’t be their year, but they have plenty of talent to cause a few stirs.’
One thing both Adam and Nick are agreed on is that we should be viewing these squads as the likely teams going to the World Cup. ‘They shouldn’t be far off,’ says Nick, ‘history has proven established sides with lots of caps go on to win World Cups.’ ‘I’d say roughly 80% of the squads should be pencilled in,’ Adam agreed. ‘There’s always room for a few bolters.’
We’re all looking forward to the England v. Ireland game on St Patrick’s Day, with many touting it as the tournament decider. Adam and Nick are no exceptions. ‘It’s looking like it,’ nods Nick, ‘they’re clearly the most experienced sides.’ Adam is of the same mind. ‘Depending on how the Ireland v. Scotland game goes, I think Ireland could be going to Twickers to win the slam. I think England will stop them though – a bit of revenge from last year!’
How do rugby players enjoy watching matches. Do they head down to the pub? ‘I do if it’s quiet,’ says Adam. I like to be able to concentrate on the game. A bag of pork scratchings is an obvious draw!’ Nick, meanwhile, is all about the bustle and fun of a busy pub. ‘I just love the atmosphere, banter, big screens and the afternoon getting increasingly boozy.’ We couldn’t agree more, though drink responsibly guys!
Here at Young’s we’re getting ready for a couple of big rugby weekends as we see the 4th and 5th rounds take place. Get your friends to cancel all other plans, book your table at your nearest Young’s and get ready to enjoy two weekends of Natwest Six Nations heaven.