The Six Nations has not disappointed. A relative implosion by England and Wales mirroring their own internal problems first created a unique drama and their toughest challenges are ahead of them this weekend. There are buckets of experience in both teams, especially Wales, so the logical outcomes – heavy defeats- may not transpire added to the pressure which will be felt by both Ireland and France. The World Cup beckons and the only consolation for both away teams is that their side of the draw is rather kind. Not to discount Argentina.
Italy have been a sensation, kudos, but still cannot prevail – could have won 3 out of 4- and Scotland can rightly celebrate their arrival at the top table of international rugby, first time since the glory days of the early 90’s. It has been a wait, but their play is not only easy on the eye but world class, especially their potent midfield. Take a bow Russell, Jones, and Tuipulotu.
For me, the player of the tournament is Mack Hansen when also measuring expectation. He is everywhere, a flying winger, big tackler, turnover specialist, breathing live into dying moves, and an opportunist. He plays for Connacht! Doesn’t that say it all about how Ireland operates? I saw them win the Pro 12 some years ago beating Leinster in the Finals who sported most of the National team at the time, and now of course. When I visited Galway Bay a few years ago as Chairman of Europe it was clear how much they added to the whole Irish collective. Leinster of course is the poster child and Mick Dawson CEO takes much credit for creating the pathways alongside Philip Brown the former CEO of Irish Rugby and other long-term operators such as Niall Fitzgerald, ex Unilever and Chairman of Munster. It may seem odd to be mentioning people such as this but off field excellence creates the platform on field performance. When will others learn.
Farrell has brought all this together superbly, and to think England was a training ground for him. So, there will be trophies for Englishmen, either him or Monsieur Shaun Edwards plotting a demolition of Wales, his previous hunting ground, while basking in the Paris sunshine.
This may be a subplot for the Rugby World Cup in some people’s eyes, and Ireland has yet to show any form in that test of the world’s best. But let’s wait because this weekend, St Patrick’s day will cue the feverish, Guinness-laden occasion when Ireland and Sexton fulfil their rightful destiny. Over the years, despite being born in Wales with a Scottish mother and with a French education, my best rugby experiences have been in Ireland on and off the field. English supporters will enjoy themselves regardless of the result – and the players? Cometh the hour…….how much do you care?