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'It's back, baby': 2023 Six Nations media launch whets the appetite

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Inpho via Six Nations)

It’s finally back, baby. It took a full three years for the Guinness Six Nations media launch to make its way the short three-and-a-half miles along the River Thames from Wapping to the London Eye for its latest in-person new season welcome. But with the pandemic restrictions of recent years now past tense, normal service was at last resumed on Monday and the rugby world felt all the better for it.

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Far from the off-the-beaten-track of the 2020 Tobacco Dock launch venue, the self-styled world’s greatest championship was all shiny bells and whistles at the London County Hall, keen to take its best step forward and show itself in the best light possible now that nearly everyone could meet up again.

The previous two launch iterations had been totally confined to sittings rooms all around Europe, the team coaches and captains restricted to shedding light to the media on their respective title chances from screens very far away.

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There was still a Zoom aspect to Monday’s proceedings. Those media who couldn’t make it along were catered for by a virtual rotation that keep them in the loop.

But aside from that nod to the pandemic and all the working practices that came with it, it was just like old times 12 days out from the February 4 round one matches between England and Scotland at Twickenham and Wales versus Ireland at Cardiff.

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Lashings of Guinness, some belting live music from a street busker invited to do an indoors gig… and of course the stars of the Six Nations now all under the watchful eye of the Netflix crew filming their every move for the new behind-the-scenes documentary on the tournament. Swell.

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No sooner did you stroll down the Belvedere Road at just after nine on a frosty morning did the senses come alive to the rugby with all of the six coaches posing for pictures outside of the venue before the jamboree got going inside with a million and one questions asked and answered. So more elaborately than others.

As is ebb and flow of these bunfights, the French and the Italians, a bit like the taste of the sponsor’s brew, remained an acquired taste. The translations of everything that Fabien Galthie had to say continued to be a wearying time consumer and Italy… well, no matter who is at the helm, it was still hard to take them overly seriously given their depressing record of results despite last year’s final day ambush of Wales.

It meant that this launch was primarily about its three front-of-house attractions – the respective tandem teams of England’s Steve Borthwick and Owen Farrell, Ireland’s Owen Farrell and Johnny Sexton and Wales’ Warren Gatland and Ken Owens, with Scotland’s Gregor Townsend and Jamie Ritchie the support cast.

The hot takes? That England’s skipper Farrell genuinely sounded contrite about his recent tackling sanction, that Ireland’s captain Sexton is putting behind him him latest annual pre-championship injury scare, and that the returning Gatland is this year’s wolf in the hen house, ready to roll back the years with Wales and to party again just like he did way back in 2008 at the start of his first stint in charge.

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Safe to say the function left the appetite suitably whetted. The Six Nations is definitely back, baby!

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