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Mallett tips England to win Six Nations
Johannesburg
February 28, 2000

England are the most likely winners of the Six Nations championship, says Springbok coach Nick Mallett, whose team face the English in a two-Test series later this year.

"I'm sure they'll be the Six Nations champions," Mallett told the press in Johannesburg on Monday while assessing South Africa's 12-Test schedule this season.

Mallett said while he always thought England's backline defence was suspect, he was impressed by fly-half Johnny Wilkinson's tackling in their 15-9 win over France.

"Their backline defence was definitely never as strong. They played like a southern hemisphere side. Wilkinson's tackle on (French wing Emile) Ntamack was very good.

"It's very unusual to see a fly-half from the northern hemisphere putting their body on the line like that," he said of South Africa's World Cup quarter-final opponents, who were beaten last year by fly-half Jannie de Beer's world record-setting five drop goals.

Italy's performances in the expanded northern hemisphere were "good for the Six Nations", Mallett said.

"Never underestimate the Mediterranean flair. When things are going well, they go unbelievably well," said the Springbok coach, who played rugby in both France and Italy. Mallett said the Springboks' schedule this year is "one of the hardest South Africa have had to face" - starting with a Test against Canada, then two against England, then the one-off Mandela Cup against Australia, followed by both Australia and New Zealand, home and away, in the Tri-Nations.

A Test against World Cup quarter-finals Argentina has also been confirmed, while a game against another northern hemisphere team is still on the cards.

"We play basically the northern hemisphere champions, then the world champions (Australia) twice and then the Tri-Nations.

"Of the 12 games, only Canada are outside of the top eight teams in the world. I don't know of any other sport that does that, playing the top sides every year or second year."

For a full list of Springbok Test fixtures click here.

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