We are now halfway through the 2022 Six Nations, which has produced some interesting results and brought to light both strength and weaknesses of Europe’s best rugby teams.
The difficulty of competing in a tournament like the Six Nations is that every single match has extremely high stakes and players need to maintain their form and stay injury free for five consecutive matches.
Further pressure is added when sides are determined to win the Grand Slam, which requires beating every other team in the tournament.
Shane Williams, Welsh Winger and IRB Player of the Year, recently provided an exclusive interview to sports betting firm, Betway, about what it takes to win the Six Nations from his own Grand Slam winning experience, which he said was “one of [his] highest achievements.”
“It was just self-belief…We backed ourselves, we backed our physicality, we were mentally tough, and we had a strong enough squad to get us through the tournament unscathed, and that was the difference.”
Since Italy was added to the Six Nations in 2000, a Grand Slam has been won only 11 of the 22 years – Wales won four, France won three, while England and Ireland have each won two.
The Six Nations is clearly an exciting sporting tournament for fans as it brings out patriotism and competition like few other rugby union competitions except for the Rugby World Cup.
However, the question is whether the Six Nations produces the best rugby performances by players and teams.
Certainly players are challenged against some of the best players in the world. However, the short time frame within which each of the matches is played provides little time for teams to make adjustments. This means that the Six Nations is often won by teams that can make the quickest adaptations and adjustments throughout the tournament.
Furthermore, the tight timeframe means that injured players can sometimes miss a big part of the tournament without sufficient time to recuperate.
Shane Williams also cites luck as a big factor in the tournament.
“You need a massive amount of luck to win the Six Nations,” says Williams. “Just little decisions, a referee perhaps being a bit lenient on a decision, a referee getting it wrong, the luck of a bounce, or a mistake made by the opposition.
When stakes are so high, teams that can soak up that pressure and adapt quickly in the tournament (with a bit of luck) ultimately come away with the prize.
However, it is arguable whether such a tournament produces the best rugby performances as a tournament that was spread out over multiple months would probably allow teams to work on their weaknesses and produce a better result on the rugby pitch whilst allowing injured players sufficient time to recover and take part in the tournament.