Lawrence Dallaglio shares his thoughts on the upcoming Six Nations and the year ahead for rugby in 2021.
In advance of England opening Guinness 6 Nations match against Scotland on 6th February at Twickenham, Eddie Jones has named an exciting 28-man squad. Recognised stars like captain Owen Farrell, Jonny May and Billy Vunipola are all selected but Jones has also named sensational young prospects scrum-half Harry Randall and Wasps flyer Paolo Odogwu in the squad. England will be on the hunt for Grand Slam glory and the Calcutta Cup opener is the start of a packed schedule of international rugby. 2021 is a special year for rugby union – the British and Irish Lions will tour South Africa and England Rugby are celebrating their 150th anniversary. The upcoming game against Scotland will mark 150 years since the first-ever international rugby union match, when Scotland defeated England 1-0 at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh in March 1871.
Ahead of the annual showdown of northern hemisphere rugby, we spoke with Hospitality Finder ambassador and England and Lions legend Lawrence Dallaglio to get his thoughts on the England squad, the Guinness 6 Nations and the year ahead. The England world cup winner played a key role in the historic Lions victory in South Africa in 1997 and with three Lions tours under his belt, few have greater insight and experience in what it means to be a British and Irish Lion.
HF: England’s 6 Nations squad has just been announced are there any players to watch out for?
LD: “Eddie Jones has picked a strong squad with bags of experience at international level. Key men like Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje are always worth watching out for. Billy Vunipola, as ever will be crucial to England. At his best, he’s world-class but we could do with seeing him back to that level in this tournament please? The likes of Max Malins, Ben Earl and the uncapped Paulo Odogwu are young players in form that could really make a big impact this year. I’d be interested to see Harry Randall get a run at some point in the tournament and Jack Willis who is now a late call up for the unlucky Sam Underhill.”
HF: How do you see the 6 Nations playing out this year?
LD: “It’s a really tough call! Current champions England will be hoping to go one better than last year and clinch the Grand Slam, especially with three games at Twickenham including France and Scotland. France themselves are resurgent under Fabien Galthié and Ireland have added Paul O’Connell to their coaching team which should have a big impact on an already strong forward pack. Wales are an interesting watch for me? They have struggled initially under Wayne Pivac but if they get their selections right and keep everyone fit I still believe they’re capable of so much more than we have seen so far. Under the tutelage of Gregor Townsend, Scotland have made great progress in recent years and are capable of upsetting anyone on their day and whilst I don’t want to discount Italy from winning a match, they have a real challenge ahead if they are to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon. Neck on the Block – I would say England to win the title again this year with 3 home matches!”
HF: What bearing will the 6 Nations have on the British and Irish Lions squad?
LD: “As a player, you want to perform as best possible and show the coaches you’re in form on the biggest stage possible. The 6 Nations certainly provides that platform but there is also a lot of rugby to play between now, squad selection and the Test Match v Japan at Murrayfield. Players can lose form and there is also the risk of injury but performing well for your country in the 6 Nations is the first step to Lions selection. The Players will all want to be Lions no matter where or when the Tour is set to be played!”
HF: Looking ahead to the British and Irish Lions what is so special about a Lions home Test Match and what did you enjoy most about being involved in the last Lions home game v Argentina in 2005?
LD: “Being selected for the Lions is one of the greatest honours I experienced playing rugby, so any opportunity to pull on that famous red jersey is a very special occasion. The Lions rarely play at home and have only done so a handful of times since their inception in 1888, so being involved in 2005 was a great privilege and one which I will always remember. Whilst I didn’t start the game in Cardiff against Argentina, it was fantastic to run out in front of home supporters and experience that incredible atmosphere. The support from the Lions fans is another level.”
HF: What are you most looking forward about the British and Irish Lions v Japan match?
LD: Well it will certainly provide a stern test for Warren Gatland’s men that’s for sure! Japan have improved hugely in the last decade or so and having been bolstered by a superb World Cup in 2019, the Cherry Blossoms will be out to inflict defeat on the Lions before they have even reached South Africa. It’s a great opportunity to see the likes of Owen Farrell, Jonny Sexton and George North taking the field together and a victory against the Japanese will certainly be a big boost ahead of three Test Matches against the reigning world champion Springboks.”
The quadrennial tour to face either South Africa, Australia and New Zealand represents something totally unique, where players from the four home nations unite in one of the most time-honoured traditions in any sport. That famous red jersey worn by THE greats of British rugby brings with it an exciting challenge for the players and the chance to create history against South Africa. Like their last tour to South Africa in 2009, the Springboks are again World Champions and provide one of the toughest assignments for any touring team. This year will however be slightly different, with the British and Irish Lions playing a home Test at BT Murrayfield against Japan before they jet off to South Africa. The last time the Lions played a home Test was against Argentina in 2005, so this one-off match represents a rare opportunity to watch the likes of Owen Farrell, Jonny Sexton and George North combine in the same team.
To book your place at BT Murrayfield and witness this historic Test Match between the British and Irish Lions and Japan look no further. Join the likes of Mike Tindall, James Haskell and Alex Payne and enjoy the best hospitality and match seats BT Murrayfield has to offer.