So the autumn internationals are over and now we are left looking to the 6 Nations tournament for our next dose of international rugby. And what a tournament we have in waiting. With defending champions Wales, looking to break records by winning 3 in a row, coming off the back of a distinctly average autumn series, all other contenders will be chomping at the bit to stake their claim to the crown.

Wales began well with a courageous effort against South Africa, but their inability to create try scoring opportunities cost them in defeat. Their best performance followed in their clinical demolition of Argentina but the optimism was dampened with a lacklustre and rusty game against Tonga. The mood going into the Australia game was not the buoyant, optimistic one it should have been. The Welsh began in rampaging fashion, racing in to a 10-0 lead. Sadly this could not be maintained as Wales slipped to another agonising defeat to the Wallabies, this time 30-26. The Welsh are still looking a string bet to retain their title, the 3 in-a-row record spurring them on.

The English were another team to have an ordinary series with a noticeable victory over the Australian’s to kick things off, only soured by a poor performance in stuttering to victory over Argentina. They rounded things off with a spirited outing against New Zealand but were ultimately always going to fall short against a team seeking to avenge their only defeat in the previous 33. England cannot be discounted for the 6 nations, even with an already increasing injury list.

The Irish broke everybody’s hearts this autumn. For every rugby fan that is not a Kiwi, their last kick defeat to New Zealand was agonising but encapsulated everything we love about the game. Ireland stormed the first half and led 19-3 at one point, but threw it away allowing the All Blacks to come back and win 24-22. Their indiscipline cost them as they tried to charge down the conversion but moved too early, allowing a retake that was slotted. A collective crack was heard across Ireland as hearts broke. Their other performances were nothing to write home about although they looked at ease against Tonga, but flat in attack against Australia. Ireland will no doubt pick themselves up for a tournament they will secretly harbour ambitions of victory.

The French, always a Jekyll and Hyde team, lived up to this tag in the autumn losing to New Zealand and South Africa but winning a feisty encounter with Tonga. Their losses were games they never looked like winning but discount the French at your own peril. The 6 Nations tournament immediately following each of the last 3 Lions tours have been won by the French, can they repeat this?

As for the other 2, Italy are improving every year but never look likely to win enough games in such a short space of time to win the tournament. The same goes for Scotland. A fairly impressive autumn series showed they can run big teams close, but do they have the fire power to win enough? It would seem unlikely.

With a tournament with such promise just around the corner the teams will be working hard to hone their skills and get the right combinations. Roll on February 1st!

About Author: Rachel Bloom is a writer for Shop Rugby who are a leading online retailer in rugby merchandise. Get ready for the 6 Nations 2014 and support your team with the latest international rugby shirts available online at ShopRugby.com