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Six nations tournament kicks off

Latest update : 2008-02-02

The first international rugby event since the World Cup, the 2008 six nations tournament kicks off on Saturday in Ireland. This year's edition is expected to be more open than ever.


By Mitch Phillips


LONDON, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Ireland's players will take the
first step towards banishing their World Cup memories in the
opening game of the Six Nations championship against Italy at
Croke Park on Saturday (1400 GMT).


Pretty much the same group of players who began last
season's tournament with high hopes of a grand slam and who
missed out on the championship only on points difference have
everything to prove after their torrid time in France, where
they failed to get beyond the pool stage.


The Irish have never lost to Italy in the Six Nations but
should the Azzurri be inspired to break that duck by the arrival
of new coach Nick Mallett then Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan
would be in for a rough two months.


England begin their campaign at 1630 GMT in front of 82,000
at Twickenham, where Wales have not won since 1988.


The English, on a high after the World Cup comeback which
took them to the final, have the heart of their pack still in
place and some exciting young talent on the bench, and should
extend that unbeaten run.


Wales have been given a lift by the arrival of coach Warren
Gatland and his straight-talking English assistant Shaun Edwards
and they will certainly know each other well with 13 Ospreys in
the starting team.


However, their pack looks badly underpowered in the face of
players such as Andy Sheridan and Simon Shaw and Wales's only
hope would appear to be if England bypass the basics and allow
the exciting Welsh backs to get some dangerous counter-attacking
ball.


The third game of the weekend is at Murrayfield on Sunday
(1500) when a highly experimental French team will hope to avoid
their upset loss to the Scots on the same ground two years ago.

Date created : 2008-02-02

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