Six Nations 2014 preview: England, Scotland and Wales

Six Nations 2014 preview: Oisin Gregorian takes a look at England, Scotland and Wales ahead of the opening weekend

Wales

Last year: 1st (P5 W4 D0 L1)
Coach: Warren Gatland
Captain: Sam Warburton

Winning one championship is an achievement, defending it confirms a place in history. Come the end of March, Wales and Warren Gatland can go even one better, and where no nation has gone before – win three consecutive championships. In Gatland, Wales have one of the most experienced coaches when compared to his colleagues. In Warburton and co, Gatland has arguably one of the finest set of players in living Welsh history; blessed with perhaps more game-changers to choose from than any of their rivals. It is with this that Wales are rightfully favourites for a third straight crown. Whether or not they can put aside domestic in-fighting and group together for another impressive five-week push remains to be seen. Beginning at home to Italy, Wales have a great chance to lay down the proverbial marker before a six-day turnaround to face Ireland in Dublin, who too will be aiming to lay down a marker of their own. A win against Ireland could propel them on, while a loss could affect the rest of their campaign.

Fixtures: Italy (H), Ireland (A), France (H), England (A), Scotland (H)

England

Last year: 2nd (P5 W4 D0 L1)
Coach: Stuart Lancaster
Captain: Chris Robshaw

England have come a long way considering current coach Stuart Lancaster was initially appointed by Rob Andrew on a short-term, stop-gap basis. Before they were erratic and inconsistent, with an army of fans longing for a return to the effectiveness and guile of the Sir Clive Woodward era. In hindsight, the decision to appoint Lancaster has been inspired. Team spirit within the squad now appears at an all-time high, with Lancaster at long last finding that all important balance. With this balance, England are now once more considered serious championship contenders, but fans shouldn’t be too disappointed if they end this campaign without a medal. Lancaster’s plan has always been the home World Cup next year, and will more than likely use this campaign to continue his building plan, with any medals an obvious bonus.

Fixtures: France (A), Scotland (A), Ireland (H), Wales (H), Italy (A)

Scotland

Last year: 3rd (P5 W2 D0 L3)
Coach: Scott Johnson
Captain: Kelly Brown

Much like their Italian counterparts, Scotland too find themselves in place of mild stagnation, struggling valiantly to improve year after year, showing glimpses of potential, but ultimately struggling to find that concoction so desperately needed in the modern game. A third-place finish last time out despite losing three times ultimately showed just how much those below them underachieved in order for Scotland to finish so high. Struggling to improve or move on to the next level since then, few can see such a result this time around, and they will more than likely end up toeing with Italy once again to avoid sixth place. With current Clermont Auvergne coach Vern Cotter to take over from Johnson in the summer, all is far from lost for Scotland with regards to the World Cup, but with the squad anticipating the Kiwi’s arrival and the chance of a fresh start, 2013 could easily be a disappointing write off.

Fixtures: Ireland (A), England (H), Italy (A), France (H), Wales (A)

In the video above, Matt Dawson returns to join Will Carling & Scott Quinnell as they catch-up on the nail-biting final rounds of the Heineken Cup, catch up with another one of Matt’s Celebrity Friends and answer your Twitter questions.

Gary Lineker
‘Indisputably’: Gary Lineker raves about Man United star during 3-2 win over Atalanta
Steve McManaman
Steve McManaman: Liverpool FC signing Ousmane Dembele would be 'smart' business
Christian Pulisic
Thomas Tuchel updates Chelsea FC fans on Christian Pulisic
Mohamed Salah
Fabrizio Romano provides fresh update on Mohamed Salah’s Liverpool FC contract situation
Mason Mount
Olivier Giroud praises two Chelsea FC stars who are a ‘different class’
Gary Lineker
‘Indisputably’: Gary Lineker raves about Man United star during 3-2 win over Atalanta
Steve McManaman
Steve McManaman: Liverpool FC signing Ousmane Dembele would be 'smart' business
Christian Pulisic
Thomas Tuchel updates Chelsea FC fans on Christian Pulisic
Mohamed Salah
Fabrizio Romano provides fresh update on Mohamed Salah’s Liverpool FC contract situation
Mason Mount
Olivier Giroud praises two Chelsea FC stars who are a ‘different class’
Top 50 Muslim footballers: Arsenal, Chelsea FC, Liverpool FC and Man United stars feature
Top 50 Muslim footballers: Arsenal, Chelsea FC, Liverpool FC and Man United stars feature