LONDON (AFP) – The Six Nations Championship is always an event in itself but this year’s edition will also indicate the strength of the European challenge at a World Cup in England just seven months away.
That the shadow cast by the Webb Ellis Trophy is inescapable can be seen from the fact that Friday’s Six Nations opener in Cardiff sees Wales against England, with the old rivals in the same 2015 World Cup pool.
For an injury-hit England, victory at the Millennium Stadium would help ease the pain of a crushing defeat in the Welsh capital two years ago.
It would also establish Stuart Lancaster’s side as serious title contenders, with England not having won the Six Nations since 2011 when Martin Johnson was in charge.
England have finished runners-up three times under Lancaster and the coach said: “We are frustrated that we haven’t nailed down that Championship win — it does burn inside us.”
England’s much-vaunted playing depth is set to be put to the test with No 8 Ben Morgan, lock Joe Launchbury and fly-half Owen Farrell all ruled out of the entire Six Nations, with several other players currently sidelined.