Predictions from the expert

Mick Cleary is the Telegraph’s rugby union correspondent and has been covering international rugby for nearly 30 years.

He’ll be giving us his predictions ahead of every weekend of the RBS 6 Nations.

France v England

The England team is very inexperienced and it will be a big step up for the new players.

They’ve played Heineken Cup, but an international game in Paris is probably as intimidating as it gets.

However, England coach Stuart Lancaster has a good record bringing in new players – he blooded seven new caps at Murrayfield against Scotland in his first match in charge and won that. I don’t think he’s picked a duff one yet.

The French have been very pragmatic of late, their Top 14 domestic sides play a lot of bish-bosh rugby – we’ve not seen a great deal of flair recently.

As much as we try to veer away from the stereotype, France are just so difficult to predict. They had a rotten year last year and collected the wooden spoon.

However, they have some talented players including the likes of full-back Brice Dulin and a very threatening midfield partnership. Centre Mathieu Bastareaud is a huge man and can cause a lot of damage, while Wesley Fofana is a wonderfully skilled player.

England need to get off to a good start but I think they will sneak it.


Wales v Italy

Wales are going for three titles in a row and that has never been done in the RBS 6 Nations.

Italy can be awkward but Wales have a certain confidence about them.

A lot has been said about the political infighting in Welsh rugby with their players leaving, mostly to play in France. But I actually think it has had a positive impact, their players now really look forward to going into Wales camp – it’s almost become like their club side.

Wales have players injured, there are slight question marks over their pack and they will have to be on their game to cope with Italy, who are strong up front – but they should have enough.

Mick’s Pick: WALES TO WIN

Ireland v Scotland

Scotland have not exactly been pulling up trees recently but they have a decent pack. They just need to find a way of scoring more tries – it’s a bit of a weakness in rugby if you can’t do that!

Ireland had a mixed 2013, they lost heavily to Australia but came close to beating New Zealand before losing at the death.

New coach Joe Schmidt had great success at Leinster but it has taken time for him to settle with Ireland. He is an inventive coach, is bold and that should suit Ireland.

They will miss Sean O’Brien in the pack but Gordon D’Arcy is in good form and it is Brian O’Driscoll’s swansong.

Mick’s Pick: IRELAND TO WIN  BY 10-12 POINTS

Who will win the RBS 6 Nations?

It could be any one of four teams: France, England, Wales or Ireland. It is so close that any one of those could win.

France can’t be as poor as last year but if England win this weekend then they will be up and running.

The 6 Nations is always special, aside from the fun and the travel I’m expecting the rugby to be top notch this year – what’s on offer will be terrific with 18 months to go until the World Cup.

The teams will be looking to finish their building and experimenting. Injuries always disrupt plans but these are the guys who you will be looking to use at the World Cup.

To read more from Mick Cleary and the Telegraph’s rugby team throughout the RBS 6 Nations go to and you can follow Mick on Twitter at @MickClearyTel