All those predicting the inevitable were left shaking their heads as England nearly blew it against France, and Ireland came unstuck at Murrayfield. No Grand Slam decider in Dublin then, and plenty more surprises to come I suspect before we are done. The Six Nations is already more interesting than the whole of last year.
Here’s a mini review after round one and a sneaky look ahead.
For a team who has chased the big win for years, there was riotous celebration in all Scottish households last weekend, and a few others besides. They fully deserved their triumph because of their daring and bravery, but anyone who has watched Glasgow this year shouldn’t have been surprised. The Gray brothers made 50 tackles between them, and Hogg scored two great tries – there you have it, and they even had some luck with favourable bounces- at last. Finally, they closed the game out !!!
A recovering France away is an ideal next test – more tackles against bigger men than the Irish, and some opportunism required. I can see it happening…
Eddie can do no wrong – his prematch chat was off beam but half time team talk was obviously a cracker. England dared very little and in fact should have lost and deserved to – except at the moment noone knows how to beat them. All their runners were on the bench as it happens – another Jones masterstroke to bring them on and finish off a tiring French behemoth of a team. Elliot Daly didn’t listen to the script, nor did Farrell. They were both exceptional. In truth, England has a priceless ability to go through a game doing next to nothing and then just enough to get a win – great teams do that …….
Eddie again – ‘The Welsh have everything, goats, daffodils …….’. Hmm, well there’s a war of words. All this from an Aussie! The Welsh will love it – not. It is a wind up and Cardiff will be whipped into a frenzy. England must bring their A game and be unfazed, even with a depleted squad . Given an inexperienced back row this weekend is a big ask given England’s patchy form. I suspect that Wales sense a real chance here although their form says not and that simply whets the appetite.
I could not understand their narrowminded approach in the first half at the Stadio Olympico. Added to that the backs ran across the field and it was deadly dull. Once Sam Davies came on the game changed and some traditional Welsh skill appeared but it was all too indicative of the Autumn torpor despite positive results.
I still believe their whole season hangs on Saturday’s match. They will target England’s fringe and that will be dead wrong. The only way they win is to play wide and trust their skills. Have they the bravery to do that, I wonder.This squad has nothing to lose.
Lets hope that their first half against Wales wasn’t the highlight of their season. Some returning experience will boost their back row and what does Campagnaro have to do to get a starting place at centre? I forecast a frenetic contest because Italy will be desperate and so will Ireland – for very different reasons.
The strong performances of the Irish Provinces seemed to count for nothing against the Scots. Huge amounts of possession but never in the right hands – CJ Stander carried the ball 22 times and made 50 metres! Good enough for Munster, not for Ireland. Dare I say it Stuart Lancaster seems to have inspired Leinster to play with pace and width but Ireland forgot all that. No harm done, and some gentle rehab against Italy before three toughies although thats not the way the Azzurri’s see it. Sexton will be held back for Wales, which is a happy hunting ground rather than Murrayfield which isn’t.
Had Fofana been playing, that first half French performance would have put them out of sight and we would be questioning Eddie Jones’ selection and tactics. They did show a good mix of skill and power and will get better. Picamoles covered more yards than the whole of the English pack put together! I look forward to the continued improvement of Gourdon at 7 who was a revelation. Sérin at 9 will also grow into the role and surely is the French pick for the World Cup. Unfortunately they cannot get fitter overnight which did hurt them at the close – and probably cost them the match.
Best game of the weekend will be in the Stade de France sans doute.
Thought of the week…
I never played against Joost Van der Westhuizen, more’s the pity. I attended a dinner in London last year when he was in the latter stages of his illness and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. He was an inspiration and left a major impression on everyone. RIP Joost