Six Nations 2023 predictions: our writers on who will win and why

Robert Kitson

Who will win? France have one eye on this year’s World Cup and have some injuries. Which gives Ireland the chance to underline their world No 1 ranking with a first title since 2018. If that implies a smooth, stress-free procession, it won’t be.

Finishing order: 1) Ireland 2) France 3) Scotland 4) England 5) Wales 6) Italy.

Most important player: This is Johnny Sexton’s last Six Nations hurrah and the 37-year-old is naturally keen to make the most of it. Ireland seem to have a whole different level of assurance when he is on the field. If he tweaks a calf muscle in round one, what then?

Watch out for … More red cards. Referees will be cracking down on time-wasters, dawdling goal-kickers and intrusive water carriers, but dangerous tackles and clean-outs remain at the top of their hitlist. Accidental or not, the crusade goes on.

Gerard Meagher

Who will win? Wales. Warren Gatland is back, has picked a team to face Ireland brimming with experience and if they get off to a winning start they can go forth with confidence. May have to win in Paris on the final Saturday, but Gatland can cross that bridge when it comes.

Finishing order: 1) Wales 2) France 3) Ireland 4) England 5) Scotland 6) Italy.

Most important player: Tend to be back-rows and there are plenty – Jac Morgan, Jack Willis, Caelan Doris and Grégory Alldritt, who ought to have been named player of last year’s championship – to pick from. Hookers are invaluable too, but let’s go for Leigh Halfpenny to roll back the years as Wales’s Mr Reliable.

Watch out for … The old timers leading the way. Sexton, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Cole, WP Nel, Keith Earls and Cian Healy are 35 or older, but this is a tournament where street smarts and experience can come in handy considering five of the 10 matches last year not involving Italy were decided by a score or less.

France’s Antoine Dupont (centre)
France’s Antoine Dupont (centre) can break a game open. Photograph: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Andy Bull

Who will win? France, even though my head (like everyone else’s) says Ireland should have the edge because they play them at home. I just wonder if this France team are about ready to prove themselves to be one of the best teams we’ve seen this century.

Finishing order: 1) France 2) Ireland 3) England 4) Wales 5) Scotland 6) Italy

Most important player Antoine Dupont, because he can break a game open on his own. The two away games France play against Ireland and England are going to be ever so tight, he just may be the difference.

Watch out for … Italy, and it’s not just their senior team, who beat the Wallabies by a point in November – the U20s beat Wales and did a double over England and Scotland in the spring and summer last year.

Michael Aylwin

Who will win? Ireland. Either they lose the first game in Cardiff (quite possible with the Gatland factor and Wales’s old guard running on the fumes of emotion) and are shaken into action or they win in Cardiff and develop unstoppable momentum. Also feel as if “Italy sixth” may start to look lazy.

Finishing order: 1) Ireland 2) France 3) Scotland 4) England 5) Wales 6) Italy.

Most important player: Josh van der Flier. Never know what this category means, but it must stand to reason that the player you think is “most important” be in the team you think will win. We’ve done Sexton to death, but JvdF has quietly worked himself into second-name-on-the-sheet contention with Ireland.

Watch out for … The first time a pundit says: “The players are just going to have to learn to adapt to the new tackle height.” We’re more than six years into the red-card fiasco and these are the best players in the world. If they still haven’t learned, it may just be there’s a deeper problem.