THE OFFSIDE LINE’S Six Nations Predictor League has arrived. We have invited ten characters from the Scottish game to put their money where their mouth is by telling us what they expect to happen in each match of this year’s championship.
An ingenious scoring system will tell us who knows their stuff and who is just playing at it.
Feel free to get in on the act in the comments section at the bottom of this article. The best five predictors from round one can join the competition.
So, without further ado, let the game begin …
THE RULES –
The aim of the game is to accumulate the least number of points over the course of this year’s NatWest 6 Nations championship.
Every match week the 10 contenders will have to select the winning team from each of the three games and predict the margin of victory. Players will be penalised 10 points for getting the wrong winner and then a point for each match point they are out by.
For example, if contender A selects Ireland to beat France by 10 points and contender B selects France to beat Ireland by 7 points and the final score is a 4-point win for Ireland then –
- Contender A ends up with 6 points as he/she was 6 points out in their prediction.
- Contender B ends up with 21 points out because they were 11 points out in their prediction [they had France at +7 but France ended up -4 = 11] and they have paid a 10-point penalty for picking the wrong match winner.
Clear as mud!
A running total of points accumulated by each contender will be published each week until a winner is unveiled after the final round of matches on 17th March.
THE CONTENDERS –
Tony Stanger is a former Scotland international and (before fellow Hawick man Stuart Hogg overtakes him!) is still Scotland’s joint top try scorer of all time. He now runs his own consultancy business helping leaders become outstanding coaches. Passionate about sport and the factors that impact performance, he has written a book for parents to help them better understand their role in helping their kids reach their sporting potential. Hoping to be above average in predicting rugby matches!
Tom English is chief sports writer for BBC Scotland and, as a journalist, has been getting his Five/Six Nations predictions laughably wrong for the last 22 years. He has written The Grudge, the story of the 1990 Grand Slam, and No Borders, an oral history of the Irish rugby team. He’s also co-written, with Peter Burns, When Lions Roared, the tale of the famous 1971 Lions tour of New Zealand.
Craig Gossman plays on the wing for current BT Premiership champions Ayr and is a member of the Scotland Club XV squad, scoring one of the team’s seven tries in their recent victory over the Scotland Under-20 team in a Six Nations warm-up squad. He is very polite about continually being called Kerr – his brother’s name – in The Offside Line’s weekly BT Premiership Leaderboards feature.
Simon Taylor played 66 times for Scotland toured with the British and Irish Lions in Australia in 2001 and in New Zealand in 2005, although injury prematurely curtailed both trips. He played three seasons in France with Stade Francais between 2007 and 2010, then three seasons in England with Bath between 2010 and 2013. After a stint coaching Watsonians he now coaches Edinburgh University.
Phil Smith has been head coach at Heriot’s since 2012 and was at the helm when they won the league and cup double in 2015 and the league again in 2016. He is also head of rugby at Glasgow Academy and has coached Scotland at various age-grade levels as well as the Club XV side.
Peter Wright played club rugby at prop forward for Lasswade, Boroughmuir and Melrose. He was capped 21 times by Scotland and toured New Zealand with the Lions in 1993. He has since coached a number of clubs in Scotland, including Glasgow Hawks to the league and cup double in 2005, had a stint with Scotland Under-20s and is currently calls the shots Boroughmuir in the BT Premiership. In his spare time, he does a bit of punditry for the BBC and is a cricket umpire during the summer.
Rory Baldwin is the editor and co-founder of the Scottish Rugby Blog and has little practical experience to draw on outside of a few bleak outings for Inverness Royal Academy’s rugby team in the mid-90s. The Scottish Rugby Blog offers a fans’ view of the game and celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2017, a year that saw them pass the 1,000,000 words published mark and launch a new podcast.
Stuart Bathgate was The Offside Line’s star signing during the summer. He has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000. He first played rugby in 1972, in the second row of the George Watson’s College 17th XV. He impressed his coach so much that he was soon making his debut for the 18ths.
David Barnes isn’t very good at taking a hint and founded The Offside Line in March 2016 when the mainstream press stopped giving him work. He has been a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.
Dougie Vipond is a failed schoolboy full-back, BBC Rugby presenter, and drummer with Deacon Blue
Angus Vipond, 17, is former Scotland Uner-16 stand-off and current member of Scotland Under-18 squad.
WEEK ONE PREDICTIONS –
WALES v SCOTLAND
- Tony Stanger: Scotland win by 6
“Belief built in the Autumn will help Scotland edge a tight one.”
- Tom English: Scotland win by 6
“Parity up front gives visiting backline just enough ball to pull off an extremely rare away win.”
- Craig Gossman: Scotland win by 8
“Have to back Scotland after such a good autumn series. Backline to cause Wales too many problems and Huw Jones first over the try line.”
- Simon Taylor: Wales win by 5
“I hope I’m wrong, it’s just we haven’t won down there since strips were baggy and socks were woolly.”
- Phil Smith: Scotland win by 12
“Injuries are a big issue for Wales and Scotland have momentum on their side. I don’t think Wales will be able to build the field position they need to score a try so all their points will come from penalties.”
- Viki Mendelssohn: Scotland to win by 7
“If they can win enough ball up front the current set of backs should create enough chances to win the game.”
- Peter Wright: Scotland win by 12
“Too many key Welsh players out – Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg will do the damage if they can get the ball.”
- Rory Baldwin: Scotland win by 6
“Our gallus lads aren’t scared of a little noise. Dry conditions should prevent too many scrums, he says hopefully. Unless Wales “accidentally on purpose” knock on to force the issue, which is not beyond the devious mind of Warren Gatland. It’s time for an overdue win in Cardiff.”
- Stuart Bathgate: Scotland win by 9
“One more injury up front could seriously jeopardise Scotland’s hopes of a first win in Cardiff in 16 years, but presuming that does not happen, they have the firepower in the
- David Barnes: Wales win by 1
“Does nobody else feel like this has got heartbreak written all over it?”
- Dougie Vipond: Scotland win by 6
“If Scotland get the front row dominating it’ll open things up for our backs to cut open the depleted Welsh back line.”
- Angus Vipond: Scotland win by 11
“Wales team selection suggests that they will struggle against Scotlands dynamic backline, although Scotland could struggle in the front-row due to missing players like Zander Fagerson and Al Dickinson.”
FRANCE v IRELAND
- Tony Stanger: Ireland win by 9
“I recognise more names in the Ireland team than the French team and better the devil you know”
- Tom English: Ireland win by 12
“Callow, and unpredictable, French team against the vast experience of a Joe Schmidt side with no glaringly obvious weakness.”
- Craig Gossman: Ireland win by 5
“Can’t see past Ireland at the moment. Too strong for an unreliable French team even in Paris.”
- Simon Taylor: France win by 8
“Hope over logic, just not a big fan of the Irish.”
- Phil Smith: Ireland win by 6
“Ireland look really good but it’s not going to be easy in Paris because nobody knows anything about France so they don’t know what to expect.”
- Viki Mendelssohn: France win by 10.
“Ireland do not have a good track record in Paris so tough ask for the first match out.”
- Peter Wright: Ireland win by 15
“France are inexperienced while Ireland are perhaps the closest to full strength of all the teams, and have players already in form with Leinster and Munster going well in Europe.”
- Rory Baldwin: Ireland win by 4
“France may come good the longer the tournament goes on but Ireland are a very settled team at the moment and France are the opposite – although I expect them to put up a fight in Paris.”
- Stuart Bathgate: Ireland win by 9
“Too well-drilled for a French side in risk of being shambolic, Ireland should win with something to spare. France may well come good later in the tournament, but I can’t see them getting anything out of today’s game.”
- David Barnes: Ireland by 10
“Job done and move on for Ireland in an instantly forgettable tussle in Paris.”
- Dougie Vipond: Ireland win by 10 (they could easily lose by 15)
“I never know what the French will bring, hence my hedged-bet prediction.”
BG: Nice try Dougie, but only you first prediction is being accepted!
- Angus Vipond: Ireland by 28
“France’s recent form means that this could be the country’s worst Six Nations ever. Ireland on the other hand have an exciting young team who have won their last five internationals.”
ITALY v ENGLAND
- Tony Stanger: England win by 11
“They’re a bit rusty and some new faces but England still too good for Italy.”
- Tom English: England win by 20
“The Azzurri will put it up to them for a while, but there’s surely too much English power and impact off the bench for this to be close.”
- Craig Gossman: England win by 28
“No issues with ‘ruck gate’ – England to click into gear and get a bonus point.
- Simon Taylor: England win by 20
“Back to logic-England are really good, Italy are not.”
- Phil Smith: England by 29
“Yes, they have in juries, but England also have the biggest playing pool in the tournament.”
- Viki Mendelssohn: England win by 28.
“The English team will steamroller the Italians.”
- Peter Wright: England by 20
“Benetton Treviso have been competitive while England have had injury concerns, but they have a lot of good players coming back at the right time so only really missing Billy Vunipola and Elliot Daly.”
- Rory Baldwin: England win by 19
“England’s largely injury-free starting line-up should be enough, never mind the “Finishers”. Even Tommy Allan can’t save Italy in this one, you fear.”
- Stuart Bathgate: England by 22
“Having largely cleared up their injury worries, Eddie Jones’ team should be far too strong for a desperately limited Italian side.”
- David Barnes: England win by 26
“After a scrappy opening 40 for England against a pumped-up Azzurri, we will feel like this could go either way – and unfortunately for the romantics it will go the way we all expected at the start.”
- Dougie Vipond: England win by 45
“Eddie talks the talk but his players can walk the walk. They will dominate in all areas. So, three away wins are my predictions for week one.”
- Angus Vipond: England by 23
“Cannot see Italy getting close to beating this year’s England team.”
Check back on Monday for the rankings after round one!