Six Nations 2023: All you need to know about the tournament’s opening games

A graphic with the words Six Nations and a picture of the four home nations captains

Dates: 4 February to 18 March
Coverage: Watch Scotland and Wales home games live on BBC One; match commentary on Radio 5 Live, Sports Extra or BBC Sounds; live text on BBC digital services; highlights on BBC Two, BBC Sport website and app

One of the most competitive Six Nations tournaments in recent years begins with a blockbuster day of action on Saturday.

Wales, inspired by the return of heroic head coach Warren Gatland, host world number one side Ireland first in a match live on BBC One.

Then Steve Borthwick takes charge of his first game as England boss when Scotland travel to Twickenham.

The weekend concludes when an improving Italy host defending Grand Slam champions France on Sunday.

Here is all you need to know about the 2023 Six Nations, including where to watch the opening matches and a cheat sheet on each game to prepare for the weekend.

What is the prediction for Wales v Ireland?

Warren Gatland named his squad to face Ireland early because he wanted to “talk about rugby” with the Welsh Rugby Union currently mired in allegations of sexism and misogyny.

Gatland, who took back the head coach role in December after a successful 11-year stint previously and following a poor 2022 for Wales, has said he wants to win the Six Nations and not just use the tournament to prepare for September’s World Cup in France.

That shows in the experienced side he has selected, with Wales’ oldest captain Ken Owens, who is 36, the starting hooker and 37-year-old Alun Wyn Jones in the second row.

Liam Williams was drafted in on Thursday to replace injured full-back Leigh Halfpenny, while 20-year-old centre Joe Hawkins adds some youth on his Six Nations debut.

Wales may be buoyed by the fact that they won four Six Nations titles – including three Grand Slams – with Gatland, but Ireland are the form team.

Andy Farrell’s side are top of the world rankings and are expecting to compete with Grand Slam champions France for this year’s title.

However, Ireland have been known to peak at the wrong time before a World Cup – they lost in the quarter-finals in 2019 after starting the year’s tournament as world number one.

Farrell points out that Cardiff “has not been a great hunting ground”, with Ireland’s last Six Nations victory there coming in 2013.

Ireland are without star prop Tadhg Furlong due to injury. Furlong is replaced by Finlay Bealham, with captain Johnny Sexton fit to start at fly-half and World Rugby men’s player of the year Josh van der Flier at flanker.

Who will win England v Scotland?

While Steve Borthwick is taking charge of his first Six Nations as England head coach, Scotland counterpart Gregor Townsend may be heading into his last with his contract ending after the World Cup.

The sides arrive at Twickenham on different trajectories too. England fans, some of whom booed when their team ended a disappointing 2022 with defeat by South Africa, wait with anticipation to see whether Borthwick can turn their fortunes around.

Scotland arrive in possession of the Calcutta Cup – the historic trophy the two sides play for in this fixture – and having claimed a first win at Twickenham since 1983 on their last visit to London.

Townsend describes this match as “the biggest game of our championship”.

Despite Scotland winning their last two Six Nations encounters, England are favourites – but scrum-half Danny Care says: “I have no idea what is going to happen.”

Wing Ollie Hassell-Collins will make his debut for England, while centre Manu Tuilagi has been left out in favour of Joe Marchant.

It was previously suggested that captain Owen Farrell would start at fly-half but, with inside centre Henry Slade injured, the Saracens back will take Slade’s place and resume his partnership with 23-year-old Harlequins 10 Marcus Smith.

For Scotland, three-cap back row Luke Crosbie starts and the more experienced Hamish Watson is excluded, with Finn Russell starting at fly-half and Stuart Hogg returning from injury at full-back.

What will happen in Italy v France?

Italy return to the Six Nations after winning their first match in the tournament since 2015 against Wales last year.

They also beat Australia in the autumn, but hosting defending Grand Slam champions and world number two side France is not an ideal start to 2023.

Former England wing Ugo Monye said on the Rugby Union Daily podcast that “the Six Nations became whole again” when Italy won; there had been questions over whether they should retain their place in the tournament.

With the help of star back Ange Capuozzo, Italy may well create more ripples this year.

A far more star-studded French side will travel to Rome, though, led by captain and scrum-half Antoine Dupont as they seek to become the first men’s team to successfully defend a Six Nations Grand Slam.

Ominously, Les Bleus are on a 13-match unbeaten run.

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How can I follow the Six Nations?

In Saturday’s opening game, world number one side Ireland travel to Cardiff to face Wales. That will be on BBC One and iPlayer from 13:15 GMT and you can listen on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra.

England host Scotland in their opener later that day, with that fixture kicking off at 16:45 GMT on ITV and BBC Radio 5 Live.

On Sunday, Italy welcome France to Rome at 15:00 GMT and that match is on ITV and BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra.

Highlights and analysis of the weekend’s games will be on Six Nations Rugby Special, hosted by Ugo Monye, on BBC Two and iPlayer from 18:15 GMT on Sunday.

The BBC Sport website and app will have live text commentary of all matches and BBC Radio 5 Live will provide insight and analysis on the Rugby Union Daily podcast.

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