Monday 26 September 2016

Wales and England to decide Six Nations title as Ireland set for season of 'transition', says Welsh legend

Published 02/02/2016 | 08:52

Wales' Gareth Davies scores the crucial try against England during their World Cup clash at Twickenham
Wales' Gareth Davies scores the crucial try against England during their World Cup clash at Twickenham

Welsh rugby legend Barry John is backing Warren Gatland's side to shade their Six Nations opener in Dublin and believes his side will edge past England in a battle for the championship.

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Ireland go into Sunday's encounter with hopes of an unprecedented third successive title, but injuries, Paul O'Connell's retirement and a poor showing in Europe from the provinces has seen expectations lowered somewhat.

"To be as candid as I can be, I think a top-half finish would be a good Six Nations for us," Schmidt admitted at the tournament launch last week.

Former Welsh out-half John, a Grand Slam winner and victorious Lion, is expecting a difficult campaign for the defending champions.

"I rate the Irish coach Joe Schmidt highly but he has to deal with a number of injuries and the retirement of O’Connell and the dampness that has prevailed over the previous few weeks at provincial level could be an indication of a season of transition," he wrote in his column in Wales Online.

"It may be Wales have an advantage even though the fixture is in the Irish capital at the Aviva Stadium."

John argue that the championship will be decided between Eddie Jones' England and Wales and is tipping a more experienced Wales to prevail.

"It seems a lot of his [Gatland] players are at the right age and have been on the circuit for quite a few years," he added.

"The experience of the World Cup and in managing to overcome so many injuries to key players and reach the quarter-finals will, I believe, stand up well in this Six Nations."

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