6 Nations reaches pivotal week
What we have learnt and what we can expect.
Recent history tells us that the year after a World Cup greets a Six Nations Grand Slam winner; France in 2004 and Wales in 2008 and 2012. If the pattern is to repeat itself, it is France or England that will write themselves into history. Two matches into the Championship has taught us a lot about the title credentials of some nations and about what we can expect to see in yet another open tournament.
What we have learnt: lack of bonus points plays into Irish hands
Whilst they could be forgiven for the contributions of their opponents, the opening two matches involving Ireland have mustered a measly three tries in 160 minutes of rugby. Although they turned down kickable penalties, especially for the pin-point accurate Jonny Sexton, they have not shown enough attacking guile to get over the line more than once. This will please England (who play Ireland at Twickenham on February 27) who look a rejuvenated team without the ball under defence coach Paul Gustard.
In domestic club matches, teams are awarded an additional bonus point for scoring 4 or more tries (4 for a win + 1 bonus) to incentivise playing a more attack-minded brand of rugby. In the Six Nations, however, there is no such bonus with only 2 points on offer for a win regardless of the try count. This renders France’s 10-9 victory in Dublin and England’s 40-9 thumping of Italy of equal value in the Six Nations table.
Rugby fans and players still don’t know how to feel about a draw
The opening Sunday of the tournament saw Wales travel to Ireland, the side aiming to become the first to win three consecutive championships. Battered, bruised and bemused in equal measure, the captains and coaches faced the media in the wake of a 16-16 draw not knowing how to respond to the inevitable questions that came. Of course the result meant neither team could win the Triple Crown nor the Grand Slam however 4 victories would guarantee their place in the top two. Whilst football fans know when a draw is a good result, perhaps away from home or against a top club like Leicester City, rugby fanatics are less accustomed to the feeling. There is no doubt it left both camps feeling flat, it could be the point that wins the Championship come the spring.
Jonathan Davies should not commentate on Wales’ matches
With the Six Nations’ coverage being shared between BBC and ITV it reduces ones chance of coming across former Welsh fly-half Jonathan Davie in commentary for a Wales game. His excruciatingly biased comments brainwash the students of the game, empower the Welsh and anger the neutrals. We can’t blame him, we all root for our country and can’t help how that manifests itself, therefore keep him in the studio preferably away from the microphone.
Scotland’s Tommy Seymour takes a Finn Russell kick for their first try in Cardiff. (BBC)
What can we expect
Wales v France
Wales host France in a Friday night fixture at the newly-named Principality Stadium (known more sanely as the Millennium Stadium) with both teams high on confidence after victories in round 2. France, who have had the comfort of two home fixtures to begin their campaign, will have to silence their doubters who question their form on the road. If they can pull off their first win against Wales since 2011, they can eliminate yet another contender for the title, having ended Ireland’s hopes in Dublin.
Italy v Scotland
Scotland have good reason to be smarting after their narrow defeat to Wales; a referee, and then a TMO error cost them an early seven points in a match in which momentum swung back and forth. They travel to Rome still yet to win a Six Nations match under Vern Cotter but confident of finally getting the monkey of their back. One would assume that the loser could be odds-on favourite for the Wooden Spoon.
England v Ireland
Two impressive away wins against the traditionally weaker sides in the championship leave England top of the table on their return to Twickenham. The Irish come knowing that a loss would condemn them to a battle to avoid the Wooden Spoon, a feeble defence of their title. Eddie Jones’ England will be a settled team and must prepare for the aerial battle that Ireland will bombard them with, only after passing this test can English fans begin to think about a redemptive Grand Slam.
George Ford score’s in the corner.
Featured image: Blood and Mud