Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Six Nations providing special interest

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Wales coach Warren Gatland has been winding up his preparations with taunts about whether England have turned their boys from last season into men for this rematch. Photo / Getty Images
Wales coach Warren Gatland has been winding up his preparations with taunts about whether England have turned their boys from last season into men for this rematch. Photo / Getty Images

Six Nations rugby. Usually it falls into the category of Super rugby matches between South African rivals.

You know the drill. If you remember certain games north of the Equator are on, you record them, listen for the result and if the game sounds worthwhile and you've got the time, give it a run.

The atmosphere at most Six Nations tests is special while the rugby consistently battles to reach those standards. This year has a different feel though.

Everyone is starting to think World Cup, the pressure has gone up a touch with the global event starting in 18 months as teams start to spokeshave their squads and build their dossiers on their rivals.

The All Blacks are drawn in a group where their only serious opponents should be Argentina with victory putting New Zealand into a quarter-final against either Ireland or France.

France created an outrageous escape against England in the opening round of the Six Nations while Ireland, who have made an encouraging start with new coach Joe Schmidt, fell to the white shirts in an absorbing tussle at Twickenham.

In a few months England are heading this way where they will attempt to derail the All Blacks' push towards a record victory sequence.

First they have to deal with Wales in this round of Six Nations combat.

The All Blacks analysts will be scrutinising England's work in advance of their visit for three tests in June.

Wales have coach Warren Gatland and a dozen Lions in the mix as they look to turn the screw on their huge 30-3 victory last season against the enemy while Stuart Lancaster's side are working up their hosting defiance.

Gatland has been winding up his preparations with taunts about whether England have turned their boys from last season into men for this rematch.

While we will be watching closely, the match will also have special intrigue for the Wallabies as they are in the same World Cup pool with England and Wales next year.

There is a sense that England are starting to assemble a strong side with more backs being added to their traditional forward strength.

They are still without Dan Cole, Alex Corbisiero, Tom Croft, Billy Vunipola and Manu Tuilagi with injuries but there is a growing sense of blossoming power about the side.

They clobbered the All Blacks 38-21 in the first post World Cup defeat for the titleholders and put them under some serious strain last year before Richie McCaw's men won 30-22.

This year will be one of high intrigue as the All Blacks look for more gains as they gauge the work of experienced players whose careers may have plateaued against raw youngsters on the rise.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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