Six Nations Championship 2014: Predictions, Analysis for Remainder of Tournament

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2014

France's Yoann Huget gestures to celebrate his team's victory against England, during their Six Nations rugby union international match, at the Stade de France, in Saint Denis, outside Paris, Saturday, Feb 1, 2014. France defeated England 26-24. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Thiabult Camus/Associated Press

The opening weekend of this year's Six Nations action served in answering several questions regarding the title-challenging credentials of some of the championship hopefuls.

Wales, France and Ireland all started the tournament with wins at home and as a result are in the driving seat for eventual glory at the end of the campaign.

As Planet Rugby pointed out in December, this year's table had no truly outstanding favourite in its build-up:

Moving forward, we've taken a look at the remaining schedule, predicting how the remainder of the campaign might pan out, as well as delving into those fixtures that will have a particular impact on who emerges triumphant.  

2014 Six Nations Predictions
Saturday, Feb. 82:30 p.m. GMT/9:30 a.m. ETIreland vs. WalesAviva StadiumWales by 6
Saturday, Feb. 85 p.m. GMT/12 p.m. ETScotland vs. EnglandMurrayfieldEngland by 12
Sunday, Feb. 93 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ETFrance vs. ItalyStade de FranceFrance by 22
Friday, Feb. 218 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ETWales vs. FranceMillennium StadiumFrance by 4
Saturday, Feb. 221:30 p.m. GMT/8:30 a.m. ETItaly vs. ScotlandStadio OlimpicoItaly by 2
Saturday, Feb. 224 p.m. GMT/11 a.m. ETEngland vs. IrelandTwickenhamEngland by 5
Saturday, Mar. 82:30 p.m. GMT/9:30 a.m. ETIreland vs. ItalyAviva StadiumIreland by 10
Saturday, Mar. 85 p.m. GMT/12 p.m. ETScotland vs. FranceMurrayfieldFrance by 10
Sunday, Mar. 93 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ETEngland vs. WalesTwickenhamWales by 1
Saturday, Mar. 1512 p.m. GMT/7 a.m. ETItaly vs. EnglandStadio OlimpicoEngland by 6
Saturday, Mar. 152:45 p.m. GMT/9:45 a.m. ETWales vs. ScotlandMillennium StadiumWales by 18
Saturday, Mar. 155 p.m. GMT/12 p.m. ETFrance vs. IrelandStade de FranceIreland by 4
BBC Sport


Key Clashes

Wales vs. France (Feb. 21)

Coming into the tournament, this was always going to be a matchup that paid particular significance on whose hands the Six Nations title ended up in, and even more so after France managed to eke out a win over England last weekend.

Philippe Saint-Andre's side travel to the Millennium Stadium for their first away game of the competition, however, it's a big ask for Les Bleus to come away from Cardiff with points intact.

Warren Gatland's men could have been much more confident against Italy, their 23-15 win over the Azzurri not coming without its fair share of errors. But it's fortunate that such growing pains were allowed to come against weaker opposition.

By the time Week 3 rolls around, Wales will have eased into their groove slightly more, but this nevertheless promises to be a titanic battle, with weaknesses difficult to come by across the squads of each outfit.


England vs. Ireland (Feb. 22)

Thiabult Camus/Associated Press

If Ireland are to pose an outside threat in the Six Nations this year, then their away games will be of vital importance, just as winning all home matches will be considered a minimum requirement for England.

Now that Stuart Lancaster's side have already surrendered a loss on the schedule, their matches at Twickenham couldn't be more important, with a visit from Wales coming just a week after this fixture.

A victory over Joe Schmidt's side would set Lancaster's men up for a morale-boosting run into their clash with the Welsh, whereas a loss might have a negative impact too big to overcome if they're to avoid two defeats in a row.

Ireland's win over Scotland didn't come without its own concerns, a complacency when moving the ball through the backs being one such worry, but this meeting could have a large bearing on where the trophy ends up.


France vs. Ireland (Mar. 15)

Rounding out this year's competition in some style, France and Ireland are set to do battle in Week 6 as Schmidt's team look to succeed where England could not.

At this stage of the contest, we'll have a firm idea of exactly who is in the running for glory, but this fixture is bound to carry huge weight regardless of how the two outfits fare in the rounds to come.

Both Les Bleus and Ireland had impressive outings against the All Blacks during the autumn, each showing their ability to duel with the world's finest in their own right.

With that being the case, five weeks of warming up should have these two teams in tip-top shape for a bruising showdown at the tournament's conclusion which, by that stage, is likely to have a big influence on an eventual winner.