The Six Nations championship is just weeks away, and things are building up quite nicely. Wales, Scotland and France named their squads today, and Welsh coach Warren Gatland was speaking in advance of the tournament, which he described to be shaping up as “a little bit of an unknown quantity”, as reported by RTÉ.
England and France are looking to bounce back from disappointing World Cup campaigns, while Ireland, Wales and Scotland are eager to put quarter-final heartbreak behind them.
In the interim, the appointments of Eddie Jones and Guy Noves have raised hopes in England and France respectively. Their club sides continue to dominate the European Champions Cup, and many believe that they are joint favourites to win the Six Nations.
When asked who he thinks will win the championship, Gatland was quick to put Wales’ chances down, and put all the pressure back on his former side, Ireland.
“I think one of the things about the Irish is that they would like to go in with people writing them off, even though they have won the championship for the last two years.
“They have to go in as favourites. The thing about any Irish team is that you write them off, and you do that at your peril.
“We go into this tournament respecting them immensely, and particularly what they have achieved under Joe Schmidt over the last two seasons.
“I think they are favourites for the tournament, given the experience they have at knowing how to win, particularly under pressure. They have lost a couple of experienced players, but it is going to be a tough proposition for us.”
Wales travel to Dublin to take on Ireland in the opening game, and it is likely to be a war of attrition. Gatland’s side were the only team to defeat Ireland in last year’s championship, and they will be eager to repeat the trick on February 7.
It is not unlike Gatland to play mind games, and he has certainly added a bit of pressure on Joe Schmidt’s side.