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Topsy Ojo on Six Nations winners, Italy relegation and England honeymoon

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The Six Nations is back after a Rugby World Cup last year where some expectations were exceeded and others weren’t. But in the best annual international rugby tournament, which is celebrating 25 years since its expansion from the old Five Nations, everything is on the line and nothing can be taken for granted.

City A.M. spoke to former England international, London Irish legend and broadcaster Topsy Ojo about what each team can hope to achieve over the next two months.


“It’s a fresh start for England. This is a honeymoon period for the squad, look at the new and mature talent that’s there. I am very happy to see a lot of the guys that have been picked.

“Can they get that balance right between what Steve Borthwick feels they need to do to win Test matches, but also allowing them to show everything that they’ve shown in their club shirts?

“I really like the squad. I like that there’s some explosive players in there. It is a nice mix of experience and youth but how it is put together.”


“There’s been some evolution for Wales and it’s time for the next group to step up.

“What you might find is that on the back of the apparent idea that nobody believes they can do anything – people think they’re going to finish fifth, or even get the wooden spoon again – they go out and prove people wrong.

“They’ll say, ‘let’s go out and show them what we’re really about’. Look at Dafydd Jenkins, their 21-year-old captain — he will go and lead by example. And then you think about what that looks like not just this year, but then into year two and year three of the project, and the decision could be right to go young now.”


“Ireland will be interesting because there’s an ongoing conversation about who’s the next guy in line after the retired Johnny Sexton. Do they have those replacements ready?

“Andy Farrell is an exceptional coach. He would have thought long and hard, not just in the build-up to the World Cup but this whole time, about who is in line. It’ll be interesting to see who he gives the reins to.

“When you consider the first game is away to France on Friday night; as exciting as that is, it is a tough place to go and start your Six Nations campaign, especially when you’re trying to fill in from where Sexton left the shirt.

“But this is the game, isn’t it? It’s part and parcel of it. It’s why if you’re a fan. It’s exciting.”


“For Scotland, it is the consistency. We will all ask the question of whether they can get three wins then four wins and then go on and win it.

“They need to build step by step with their talented squad. They have the capability to go out and do some special things but they need consistency week after week. 

“Scotland give us things to talk about and they give us stories and narratives, but ultimately it is that opening weekend against Wales that matters. It will be interesting to keep an eye on Scotland, they’re ones to watch.”


“I have them as slight favourites. Even though they’re not playing at the Stade de France, wherever they go they’ll be very well supported. The crowds will be ferocious.

“Obviously there’s disappointment from the World Cup but they’ll be looking for their team to bounce back. They’re a squad with little turnover but still exciting faces.

“Antoine Dupont aside, a lot of that squad will still be there. [Dupont’s deputy] Maxime Lucu has been brilliant as well and when he played in the World Cup he was exceptional. They’ve got depth and I wouldn’t be worried about who’s next in line in any position across the pitch.”


“They can win a game. Italy is a funny one because when they click and they get it right, they do have a lovely style about them; they move the ball and they’ve got skillful players.

“But what they find is that ultimately, when push comes to shove, it doesn’t always work. 

“There’s always this conversation surrounding whether they should be in the Six Nations but they’re not going anywhere so let’s try and put that to bed.

“They’ve got a really well balanced squad, some young talents and superstars, and they’ll be looking at that first game at home in Rome against what will be an emerging England team and saying, ‘right, if we want to lay a marker down, it probably needs to be in game one’.

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