This glorious, unpredictable northern festival
And that, of course, is the beauty of this marvellous northern hemisphere winter ritual, where world beaters one week can become humbled also rans the next.
In the southern hemisphere, the Super 14 got underway this weekend in what our man in Sydney, Julian Linden, described as an “extraordinary” opening round of matches.
Despite close matches and the host of away winners, however, one element of the competition remained the same – the Canterbury Crusaders won their opener.
The New Zealanders have won seven of the 13 titles since the Super 12 started in 1996. When they haven’t won, as often than not their compatriots the Blues have claimed it.
The All Blacks have had a similar grip on the Tri-Nations, winning nine of the 13 tournaments and six of the last seven.
After a fine win over the French last week, the Irish should easily round out the weekend with a win over an Italy side that has many attributes but no half backs. This is the Six Nations, however, and anything could happen.
So forget the contrasting styles of play — yes northern hemisphere rugby at its worst can be a turgid kickfest and you see more tries in the south – the Six Nations must surely stand alone as the best rugby tournament outside the World Cup because of its sheer unpredictability.
Pictures: (Top) Wales winger Leigh Halfpenny celebrates his try against England with Andy Powell by Eddie Keogh. The Waratah’s Lachie Turner misses a tackle on the Hurricane’s Hosea Gear by Anthony Phelps.