The Six Nations 2020 was always going to be a tough one post RWC and is now threatened with cancellations for health and safety reasons. Of course we keep fingers crossed. Putting that to one side…
A tepid tournament finally sprung into life with a youthful French side making a nonsense of Welsh experience and only they appear to have taken some lessons from Japan. Pace and quick-wittedness with an eye for the gap has made sure that they dominate the highlights this year. Countless homegrown youngsters have caught the eye which has gladdened all rugby hearts, but the hard bitten ‘linebackers’ Le Roux and Willemse have been Shaun Edward’s secret weapons.
John Cooney was my pre tournament pick for Ireland as the form player in the UK if not Europe but Farrell was too cautious by half. He won’t have enjoyed the way his new charges were unravelled by England with dismissive ease – it was a relative scoreboard victory for the men in green who could well have seen a repeat of the 50 point drubbing in the August friendly if not for the now expected foot off the throttle in the second half.
Wales are still paying for a really tough World Cup series, a packet of injuries getting worse and the inevitable post Gatland rebuild. Nick Tompkins has been the stand out for me, another home grown Saracen. He will grace the Welsh midfield for a while but he may not like what’s coming this weekend. Sunny weather forecast (please?!) makes me think a lot of points in the offing and when England have momentum they are unplayable.
That first half shocker against France is apparently down to Eddie, but the players will be cursing themselves. Ten points would be coming now, or whenever, and in all honesty a Grand Slam was there but for 30 minutes of apathy or French brilliance or a bit of both. You have to admire Ellis Genge and he brings some character as does Ben Earl who will be world class. Some ex-players have smiled at what Genge gets away with on the pitch and in another era things would be different. Post-match interviews remind me of the great Gareth Chilcott, mocking the camera. Love it.
Finally, still no Darcy Graham (or Russell of course!) on show for a frustrated Scotland who will look back at the Irish game with annoyance – and a dancing Minozzi the only saving grace for Italy. Nor will Parisse get his hoped for send-off after the All Blacks miss in Japan?
So, I count one match of genuine class (Wales/France) and two halves (France/England, England/Ireland) in 2020. It is a poor return so far and the lack of ambition so disappointing. Blame the weather for some of it and so the clamour grows for a calendar change.
Meantime the quest to stay safe will be the overriding consideration.