England - defending Grand Slam champions and 2017 World Cup runners-up - are understandably favourites to retain their Six Nations crown, getting off to the perfect start with a Round One 42-7 demolition of Italy at Stadio Mirabello. The Red Roses, coached by Simon Middleton, are the second-best team in the world behind New Zealand and unquestionably the best side in the northern hemisphere. It comes as no surprise they’re clear favourites to secure their 15th title in 22 years.
France secured a convincing 24-0 win over Ireland in their opening encounter, and Les Bleues will be targeting a showdown with England later in the tournament to avenge their agonising World Cup semi-final defeat. Captained by Gaëlle Hermet, the French, ranked third in the world, should be there or thereabouts come the business end of the championship.
Ireland had a hugely disappointing 2017 World Cup on home soil, slipping to ninth in the world rankings after failing to qualify from the group stages. Adam Griggs has come in as the new coach, replacing the departed Tom Tierney, with Ciara Griffin appointed as the new captain, but their Six Nations campaign didn’t get off to the best of starts away to France. However, the girls in green have a point to prove over the coming rounds and should be targeting a mid-table finish.
Wales scraped past Scotland with a narrow 18-17 victory in their Round One clash, and with ten uncapped players in their Six Nations squad, it was an encouraging start for the Welsh. Teenage flanker Beth Lewis is a talent to look out for in the upcoming games, and an experimental Wales will be eager to build on their opening victory after years of underachievement against their northern hemisphere counterparts.
Scotland’s Six Nations campaign last year saw them claim their first tournament wins in seven years, a 15-14 one-point victory over Wales following a 14-12 win over Italy in Cumbernauld, and the Scots will be looking to build on those scalps this year. Although the largely amateur outfit failed to qualify for the recent World Cup and lost to Wales in the opening round, coach Shane Munro now has four professional players in his ranks, including French-based Chole Rollie and Lisa Thomson.
Italy have often struggled in the Women’s Six Nations, tending to finish towards the bottom of the table. Despite ending up with the dreaded wooden spoon last year and losing to England by 35 points in Round One, the Azzurre secured their best ever finish in the World Cup with a ninth placed finish. They’ll try to be as competitive as possible for the rest of the tournament under coach Andrea Di Giandomenico, and have the potential to surprise one or two teams along the way.