The Six Nations resumes this coming Saturday (28th February) – here’s a little review of what has happened and what is still to come. Team by team and in table order 🙂
England – A win in Wales then a routine victory over the Italians, two wins from two – fair enough. However in both games bad starts were the order of the day, something that Lancaster’s England have had form for throughout his reign – remember his record in matches that matter is shockingly poor. The win in Cardiff was exacerbated by Welsh losing control and bottle after building a lead, but credit the English as their five point win flattered their hosts in the end (French referee was awful by the way). Dublin up next against arguably the form side of World Rugby at the moment, victory there and the Grand Slam is surely their’s for the taking with home matches against Scotland and France to follow. No pressure then Stuart!!!!!!!
Ireland – The current Six Nations Champions and form team in World Rugby. A successful Autumn international series (including defeats of South Africa and Australia) has been followed by two strong and clinical performances – showing that as well as flair they have the physical nous to stand up to anything thrown at them. Coach, Joe Schmidt, has done a remarkable job with his set of players and the Irish are quite rightly now one of the favourites to lift the World Cup later this year. England are the visitors this coming weekend, a win, and a consecutive Six Nations title (a potential Grand Slam too) will be within their grasp. However tricky trips to Cardiff and Edinburgh await and the New Zealander will not allow for complacency if a victory is achieved on Sunday.
France – Ouch – that’s the word I would use for the French at the moment. Gone is the flair with Philippe Saint-André seemingly favouring a game of ‘mano a mano’ with strong physical players throughout the team. They were adequate in their victory over Scotland, but versus Ireland they only looked like opening up their hosts once they were forced to try and claw back a deficit. Strange times in the world of French Rugby – arguably one of the best and most competitive leagues in the world – with star players attracted from across the world – however their international team are lets be brutally honest – average – and have not progressed at all since their World Cup Final appearance in 2011. Wales visit Paris next, then trips to Italy and Twickenham follow. Come on France show us what you are made of.
Wales – After the first half of this years Six Nations a deserved 16-8 lead over the Red Rose of England – things could not have been going better. However a second half capitulation along with an English fight back meant defeat and a return to the drawing board for Warren Gatland and his team. To be fair they responded well (something they have done throughout the New Zealanders charge) with a hard fought victory at Murrayfield – a game on another day they may well have lost – their clinical play when chances were created was key. A trip to Paris is up next (where it all changed for them in their 2013 Championship winning year) – a victory there then Ireland visit the Millennium in what could be a potential title match up before they head to Rome. If a wide margin victory against the Italians might mean a title win – expect fireworks – they have done it before and can easily do it again with the quality at their disposal.
Scotland – Scotland, Scotland, Scotland – things just don’t seem to change. Two pleasing performances into the Six Nations and the same old chit chat about being gallant in defeat, it could have gone their way, if only they could convert their try scoring opportunities it could be so different etc etc etc. They could easily be sat with England and Ireland at the top of the table with two victories, if their decision making in games had been better. They played well against France but lost, they played even better against Wales, but lost. New head coach Vern Cotter does have the look of a man who will not accept mediocrity especially if performances have been good enough to secure wins. They have three more games to make amends – a win over Italy at home is a minimum requirement, it would be hard to envisage a win at Twickenham, but their final match versus Ireland at home will be the real test of how far they have come under their new man. Win and the future looks bright lose and its back to the drawing board again!!!!!!!
Italy – In March 2013 – Italy defeated Ireland 22-15 to finish 4th in the Six Nations table above their Irish counterparts and the French, things were on the up under coach Jacques Brunel. Fast forward to now – seven championship matches later – things are not so good. Wooden spoonists last year – they are now on a run of seven straight defeats since that celebratory day in Rome. They held out for a long time in their first match against a completely differing Irish team before they cut loose as the game went on, even at Twickenham they showed promise especially early and late on but eventually lost by 30 points. It seems Italian rugby is going nowhere at the moment. Scotland are up next – arguably their best chance of a win, however if this does not happen the home matches against the Welsh and France are crucial or maybes coincidentally their French coach could be out on his ear if his countrymen win in Rome.
There you go – here’s hoping for more great rugby in the final set of competitive matches for these teams, before the Word Cup takes place later this year.
Well well well how things change. Teams in the Premier League – actually teams from any division if you take into account cup matches – when they visit Manchester – The Etihad is the place where teams dread going now. The tide has been turning on the pitch in regards to the two Manchester clubs and the place to fear is now at M11 rather than M16. Should be an interesting little tet a tet come April at Old Trafford – and if the reds of Manchester lose their fifth (YES FIFTH) derby in a row the turning of the tide may well be complete – no pressure Louis.
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