Six Nations Pass Notes: Will kicking and territory game be the winning strategy?

Principality Stadium roof will be open for Ireland’s opener against Wales

Is it true that television companies might have to get rid of the overhead cameras for the duration of the tournament?

No, but camera operators will have to be vigilant if there’s the anticipated outbreak of box-kicking across the venues that employ that system. There is an expectation that the blueprint for success in the Six Nations is to focus heavily on the kicking/territory game. England relied on it to win last season’s tournament, putting a huge emphasis on accurate kicking, a solid chase and contesting aerially when the occasion allowed.

It’s like the January sales underneath 20-30 metre box-kicks given the numbers milling around; the majority are there to put off the chaser – he has to slalom in and out of bodies – or the catcher, who’s also looking to avoid the stationary “tall pines” rooted in his pathway as he tries to get airborne.

If the lawmakers wanted to see reasonably safe aerial duels, they would penalise anybody with whom a jumping player comes into contact, on the way up or down and who is not also jumping to contest possession, or anyone that wanders past the ball, in a five metre circular area around the “drop zone”.


Speaking of referees, what's on the wishlist for players and supporters when it comes to the officiating?

No one wants a sonata on the whistle but it would be nice if matches were allowed to breathe from an attacking perspective. Traditional bugbears are endless re-set scrums, crooked throws (lineouts) and feeds (scrums), offside lines of no fixed abode in that they vary from ruck to ruck, never mind game to game. Understanding the laws of physics in that a ball that travels forward is not necessarily a forward pass.

Assistant referees who are aware and vigilant, no “leading the witness” when it comes to referees and their interaction with television match officials. Say what you’ve seen and if you don’t agree, make that clear. England’s Wayne Barnes strikes a nice balance between sympathetic and firm in the tone in which he deals with players and in explaining his decisions.

Referees should not be held to a higher account than players. Everyone makes mistakes. Top of the wishlist though is that matches are decided by moments of excellence.

Is it true that DJ, music producer, song writer extraordinaire Calvin Harris has a residency at Murrayfield for the Six Nations?

No. He doesn’t. But that won’t stop those with control of the PA systems at the Aviva Stadium, Murrayfield, Principality Stadium, Twickenham, Stade de France and Stadio Olimpico pumping out some tunes in the build-up, at half-time and post-game to fill any potential vacuum in which a conversation might break out.

But for whom are they catering?

Let’s draw a line through several options, starting with the fact there are no spectators. Clearly, the players are a bit busy and don’t have time for some sampling while most personnel in the ground are otherwise engaged and can’t fully appreciate what is undoubtedly an eclectic mix of classics to suit all ages and musical tastes. Then that leaves . . . Precisely.

What about the crowd noise?

Yeah, that’s likely to be a “go-to” for big moments in a match; a decision, a try, a penalty, a card but not sure how it makes the players feel when they can hear it but see nothing but a deserted stadium. In terms of Ireland’s first game, the roof on the Principality Stadium will be open for both the Ireland and England matches because of the new pitch, unless weather conditions require it to be closed.

Rugby wise, what will the Six Nations hold?

Hopefully 15 matches most of which are entertaining, competitive encounters, chock-full of good rugby, some standout individual performances and where the brave in terms of gameplan are favoured by fortune.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer