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2012 RBS 6 Nations Rugby: How Will It Stand?

Peter CollinsContributor IFebruary 18, 2012

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 11:  6 Nations trophy prior the RBS Six Nations match between Italy and England at Stadio Olimpico on February 11, 2012 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

The 2012 Six Nations Championship is right there for the taking for the obvious contenders, as they all have their own points to prove.

England

This side is heading into the tournament under the watchful eye of its new caretaker coach Stuart Lancaster, and it will really have a point to prove after their off-the-pitch antics at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

England will be up for clearing the bad reputation that they earned at the World Cup.

The team will also be looking to make up for the two most recent negative displays from bad boy Danny Care, who has been banned for driving for 16 months after been caught drink driving, and high flying fullback Delon Armitage, who was charged with assault after an altercation in a nightclub in Torquay.

After Martin Johnson's departure, there has been a bit of early spring cleaning going on with many new faces arriving and many old leaving. Lancaster has handed centre pairing Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt, along with No. 8 Phil Dowson all their first ever England caps, so they will definitely be out to show what they're about.

Prediction: Fourth

Ireland

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The Irish will be heading into their first Six Nations Championship without captain Brian O'Driscoll since 1999, so it will be very interesting to see how the men in green fair without their BOD.

So, then the question is asked: Who is going to wear No. 13?

Well, Keith Earls of course. Who else would you have do it?

Earls has more than enough experience at outside centre to do the job correctly, as he plays there regularly for Munster. The young gun from Moyross, County Limerick, also has the experience of 26 caps under his belt to help him along his way, as well.

But their main objective will be to rectify the fact that they should not have bowed out of the RWC in the quarterfinals to the Welsh, who just so happen to be their first match of the championship this Sunday.

Should they beat Wales this coming weekend, it will be a good starting point on their way to hopefully winning the Six Nations.

This year, Ireland will be captained by the Munster and 2009 British and Irish Lion captain, Paul O'Connell.

Prediction: Champions

Wales

Wales should have been the team playing New Zealand in the RWC final, not France. They truly were the team of the tournament. They were superlative at everything they did and no one can deny them of that.

Wales will have a bone to pick with the French at this year's championship, as it was France that knocked them out in the World Cup semis.

The only weak factor of this year's Welsh team is that they will be without their magic man, Shane Williams—a huge loss.

But, one player they will have out wide is the towering Scarlets winger George North, who was one of their best players in last year's World Cup, and he was only 19 years old.

The Welsh have had to deal with some setbacks the last few days with injuries to Matthew Rees, Jamie Roberts, Rhys Priestland, Dan Lydiate, Alun Wyn Jones, Luke Charteris and Gethin Jenkins, who are all doubtful ahead of Sunday's clash with Ireland at the Aviva.

Prediction: Runners up

France

The only point the French have to prove is to their new head coach, Philippe Saint-Andre.

France were runners up at last year's World Cup, and the only reason they lost was due to the poor decision by Marc Lievremont to start scrum-half Morgan Parra at fly-half instead of Francois Trinh-Duc, a natural 10.

Saint-Andre has also given a first cap to Clermont centre Wesley Fofana.

David Attoub is also sitting on the bench for the first time in six years after serving a 70-week ban for eye-gouging Stephen Ferris.

Prediction: Third

Scotland

O Flower of Scotland, when will we see you win again?

The men from the Highlands have not won this tournament since it became the Six Nations. So, could this be their year?

The Scots did not endure an eventful World Cup compared to some of their Northern Hemisphere counterparts, so they will be looking to take at least something from this year's championship.

But they will be without their all-time point-scorer with 809 points, Chris Paterson, who has been their go-to man for points—which they have struggled to come by—over recent years.

Prediction: Wooden Spoon

Italy

After Nick Mallett stepped down after the World Cup as head coach of Italy, the Azzuri will be heading into this year's championship coached by Jacques Brunel, a former French international.

They did what was expected of them in the World Cup, which was to crash out in the group stages, so they will be on the prowl for some good fortune at this event.

Italia really rocked the boat in last year's Six Nations when they beat the French 22-21 in the Stadio Flaminio. A huge moment for Italian rugby, but how well will the Italians fair with their extremely disobedient front row?

Prediction: Fifth

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