You make your own luck in this game, so those who sniff at Wales’ 2021 championship success do Wayne Pivac’s side a major disservice.

Red cards shown to Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony in round one and Scotland’s Zander Fagerson in round two, then the controversial tries scored by Josh Adams and Liam Williams against England in round three, will go down in Six Nations folklore – but Wales should get credit for seizing the opportunities which came their way in those games, before a routine win over Italy set up a shot at glory in Paris.

Despite Paul Willemse becoming the latest player to be given his marching orders against Wales with 12 minutes to go in that final game, France finished strongly to snatch a dramatic 32-30 win, meaning the title for Wayne Pivac’s side but no Grand Slam.

Of the five real contenders in this year’s tournament, Wales had the least impressive Autumn. A depleted team playing outside the international window was hammered 54-16 by New Zealand, followed by a more respectable 23-18 defeat to South Africa, and wins over Fiji and 14-man Australia. 


In the final game of last season’s Six Nations championship, Wales had over 1,000 caps on the pitch, of which 680 are missing from today’s campaign opener against Ireland in Dublin, with Alun Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi, Taulupe Faletau among the absent key men.

They have seven Lions unavailable, and that’s got to hurt, plus their regions are really struggling – but the mood music wasn’t much more upbeat ahead of last year’s Six Nations and look how that campaign ended up! Wales have a proud recent history of over-delivering in this competition.


It was great to see some heavy monkeys drop off Scotland’s back during the Covid era with a first away win against Wales since 2002, a first away win against England since 1983 and a first away win against France since 1999 – but let’s get real here.

Those matches were all played in empty stadiums. Wales, with their backs to the wall, at a packed Principality in their first proper home Six Nations game in almost exactly two years, will  fizz with electricity. Dealing with that will be a major challenge for Gregor Townsend’s troops – a deep examination of their character. The place is a cathedral, and its congregation is the most passionate you will encounter in the world.

Many a good Scotland team has travelled to Cardiff bouncing with confidence and been sent home with tail between legs. It’s not going to be about tactics, or even ability. It’s going to be a test of courage.


Bizarrely, given how he guided them to a championship last season, the Welsh jury remains out on 59-year-old Wayne Pivac, whose appointment in 2019 was largely based on the entertaining brand of rugby his Scarlets side played between 2016 and 2018.

There was bound to be a post-Gatland hangover, but it wasn’t just the fact that Wales managed a solitary win during his first Six Nations which caused consternation in the Principality, the lack of any sort of attacking verve stung as well.

In fairness, it feels like the New Zealander has been fighting fires since he took on the job, so a dispassionate view is surely that he has done pretty well in the circumstances.

The National:


2021 was a breakthrough year for flying winger Louis Rees-Zammit – who turned 21 last Tuesday – and he is now looking to build on that.

His boyish features distract from his physical presence. He is nearly 6ft 3ins and weighs just shy of 14 stone – but it is the blistering pace combined with tidy footballing skills which makes ‘Rees-Lightning’ such an exciting proposition, typified by that chip-and-chase try he scored against Scotland last year.

The Lions tour was a disappointment and the youngster has spoken candidly about his frustrations with Warren Gatland’s game-plan in South Africa, but he demonstrated with his 80-yard wonder-score for Gloucester against Newcastle Falcons last weekend that he is in the mood to hit the ground running against Ireland this afternoon.

The National:



It feels pretty harsh to tip last season’s winners to finish ahead of only lowly Italy this time round, but it is really hard to see past the injury-crisis they are facing – compounded by their domestic season has been so stop-start due to Covid and the long-standing battle over how the regions should operate.

However, no team surfs momentum quite like the Welsh, so if they can catch Ireland on the hop this afternoon then anything is possible. We just need to look back to last year when they were also unheralded at the start but grew in confidence and stature over the course of the series.

The selection of Dan Biggar as captain could be a masterstroke or a massive own goal. Nobody doubts his experience, rugby intelligence and hunger but he will have to control the combustible side of his personality. 



Taine Basham

Adam Beard

Leon Brown

Rhys Carre

Ben Carter

Seb Davies

Ryan Elias

Tomas Francis

Ellis Jenkins

Wyn Jones

Dewi Lake

Dillon Lewis

Jac Morgan

Ross Moriarty

James Ratti

Bradley Roberts

Will Rowlands

Gareth Thomas

Christ Tshiunza

Aaron Wainwright


Josh Adams

Gareth Anscombe

Dan Biggar (c)

Alex Cuthbert

Gareth Davies

Jonathan Davies

Uilisi Halaholo

Kieran Hardy

Johnny McNicholl

Rhys Priestland

Louis Rees-Zammit

Callum Sheedy

Nick Tompkins

Owen Watkin

Tomos Williams

Liam Williams


Round 1

Sat 5 February, v Ireland (2.15pm, Aviva Stadium)

Round 2

Sat 13 February, v Scotland (2.15pm, Principality Stadium)

Round 3

Sat 26 February, v England (4.45pm, Twickenham Stadium)

Round 4

Fri 11 March, v France (8pm, Principality Stadium)

Round 5

Sat 19 March, v Italy (2.15pm, Stadio Olympico)