Turning RWC form into Six Nations success?

(Other) Thursday 2 February 2012
 
Turning RWC form into Six Nations success?
France and Wales were the leading European teams at RWC 2011 but will they build on that success in the Six Nations?

International rugby resumes this weekend with the opening round of fixtures in the northern hemisphere’s annual festival: the Six Nations. 

Following their strong showings at Rugby World Cup 2011, most experts are predicting that France and Wales will be the sides to beat. But are they right to assume that a strong RWC performance will lead to a successful Six Nations campaign?

A look at the Six Nations Championships that have taken place immediately after a RWC would suggest not. In fact, since the Six Nations changed to its current form in 2000, the European side that had the most successful World Cup have never gone on to win the competition.

Here's the breakdown…

2000 SIX NATIONS

Rugby World Cup form

At RWC 1999, England had to win a play-off to make the quarter finals where they were soundly beaten by South Africa, and Ireland didn’t even reach the last eight. Italy lost every match they played, conceding 101 points against the All Blacks. France, on the other hand, beat a world-class New Zealand side to reach the Final.

What happened

Stung by widespread criticism of their World Cup efforts, England bounced back by winning the title, only missing out on a Grand Slam when losing to Scotland in their final match. After their disastrous World Cup, Italy won their first ever Six Nations match, beating Scotland in Rome. And as for RWC finalists France, they only just scraped past Italy and were beaten at home by England and Ireland – the side who didn’t get out of their World Cup pool.

2004 SIX NATIONS

Rugby World Cup form

England, of course, won RWC 2003 in Australia, making them officially the best side on the planet and seemingly a sure thing for the Six Nations Championship. France made it to the semi finals, but were well beaten by Jonny Wilkinson and co. Ireland only sneaked past Argentina by a single point in the pool stages and suffered a heavy defeat against the French in the last eight.

What happened

Lacking the leadership of their inspirational captain Martin Johnson following his retirement, the world champions failed to take their RWC form into the Championship, losing to both Ireland and France. The Irish reacted to their disappointing World Cup by winning the Triple Crown – their only defeat coming against France, who won the Grand Slam despite key retirements of their own, in the shape of Fabien Galthié and Raphaël Ibanez.

2008 SIX NATIONS

Rugby World Cup form

After a disastrous opening to RWC 2007, England went on to reach the Final, only narrowly missing out on becoming the first country to retain the Webb Ellis Cup. Wales had a disappointing tournament, losing to Fiji in the pool stages and failing to qualify for the knockout stages.

What happened

The turnaround for a Wales team reeling from their World Cup disaster could not have been more dramatic. Led by new coach Warren Gatland and defensive mastermind Shaun Edwards, they completed a clean sweep of victories to take the Grand Slam. As was the case after their RWC 2003 triumph, England’s subsequent Six Nations campaign was disappointing, as they lost twice.

Anyone expecting RWC semi finalists Wales and runners-up France to take control of this year's Six Nations Championship could be in for a surprise.

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