What an opening weekend to this year's Six Nations Rugby Championship. The sublime skills of the French back row, the courage of the Italians, the joy of Scotland's unexpected win, the chaos and calamity of a terrible English performance and the nail-biting tension of a closely fought clash between Wales and Ireland: This opening weekend had it all. Something for everyone with plenty to stir the debate. Twitter, WhatsApp and the rest of social media were firing away….. you’ve just got to love the banter. Epitomised on UTube by this:
Italy v France ( score 50:10)
This was the first game of the championship and France certainly laid down a marker. Whilst some might say this was men vs boys, (Italy having a 19 & 20-year-old in pivotal positions), no one could deny that France were brilliant. They showed no mercy running out a 40 point win!!
Dupont was truly world-class the French number 9 must be close to being the best scrum-half in the world and possibly the best player (again – he received the vote for this last tournament) in the competition. With him and Jalibert at fly half steering the ship and the likes of the Captain, Charles Ollivon in their wake, France could well be on the way to a “grand slam”.
France have flattered to deceive in the past. Sometimes as we know they just haven't turned up, but with Shaun Edwards (defensive coach) and Fabien Galthie (head coach) driving them on, I think they will continue to show their class. Their next game against Ireland will tell us a lot. It will be their first real test of the competition. After their heartbreaking loss to Wales, I expect Ireland to be up for the fight but with Sexton (fly half) out for Ireland due to concussion, I think France will come through.
Italy unfortunately already look destined for the Wooden Spoon.
England v Scotland (score 6:11)
Scotland pulled-off a remarkable win against England in this, the 150th Calcutta Cup match (the seasonal cup that only these two sides contest). The last time they beat England at Twickenham was in 1983!! It wasn’t a massive win, but Scotland outplayed and out-muscled England in all departments. England looked bereft of ideas and were genuinely poor, but let’s not take anything away from Scots, they showed what playing with passion and intensity can do. Their clash this weekend against Wales will tell us more about how far Scotland can go in this competition.
After last weekends performance England needs to take a long hard look at themselves. They need to find a plan C when A and B aren’t working. They will probably bounce back and certainly with Italy away as their next opponents they will have an opportunity to show what they can do.
Wales vs Ireland (score 21:16)
For me, this was the pick of last weekend's games. Both teams played with commitment and both played well. O’Mahony the Irish flanker was red-carded and sent off early in the game. Despite this handicap, Ireland never gave up and pushed Wales all the way. The game was only decided in the final minute. Wales just managed to hang on at the end for a 21 points to 16 win. This will give Wales a real confidence boost, but they face a rampant Scotland next; mouth-watering.
You have to wonder what the result might have been if Ireland had had 15 players on the pitch for the whole game. Ireland showed that they could still be a contender but if they get beaten by France next week then their competition is effectively over.
So, predictions for this weekend: England to win against Italy, Scotland to beat Wales and France to beat Ireland, But what do I know, with the exception of France's win, I got everything else wrong!!
Whilst we are it, here’s a friends’ take on the Lions selection after the weekend:
Lions XV 7-2-21
What do you think?