The final table from this year’s Six Nations rugby fest will show a Welsh Grand Slam, an English renaissance, a retreat for Ireland & France, a relieved Italy and an unwanted Wooden Spoon for the Scots. But of more significance than all that is that for the first time in a long time I got more right than wrong on the predictions front! A final score of 10 correct predictions from 15 played is certainly an improvement on recent years!
So to the final weekend’s action. Wales made it 3 slams in 8 years with a tight 16-9 win over the French in Cardiff. There were some nervous moments at the end with Wales almost suffering for not having put the game away in the first half. Wales dominated the opening 40 but with missed kicks again coming back to haunt them, the French improvement in the second half almost spoilt the party. Wales have not been as fluent as they would have liked during the tournament but they have certainly built on the confidence gained from their World Cup campaign. Their defence is now miserly and they now have the game management to beat a Southern Hemisphere giant. Les Bleus? Well Mr. Saint-Andre has a lot of work to do. His game plan does not seem to suit the French style and it is unlikely that the French supporters will tolerate “direct” rugby for long.
At Twickenham, England produced a forward master class to put Ireland away with ruthless efficiency. The Irish pack has long been said to have a soft under belly at scrum time and the home side certainly exposed a lack of power in the visiting scrum. England also varied their game nicely and a 4 from 5 record was certainly better than what was predicted pre-tournament. Stuart Lancaster deserves much credit but will the RFU have noticed?? Or will they make the error of thinking there is a better candidate to be had from elsewhere?? England now have momentum so anything that disrupts that from off the field will not be tolerated by the English supporters. Ireland need an injection of new blood. They are offering little in midfield and it must be a worry that without O’Connell and O’Driscoll they are a shadow of the team they were two season ago. Its time for Declan Kidney to be bold and pick on form rather than just loyalty alone.
In Rome we saw one of the worst games of International Rugby Union. Ever.
The quality of the game was extremely poor with both sides having miserable campaigns. It is no coincidence that these two teams are the worst passers of the ball in the tournament with unforced errors being the norm. Italy have some excuses in that they are still a growing rugby nation but Scotland are now on in a worrying slide and I think its fair to say the Scottish game is in turmoil both internationally and domestically. To improve the tournament further we need both of these teams to be realistic competitors rather than also-rans battling it out for who finishes last. Wales have shown that it can be done (its not so long ago that we were the poor relations of the tournament) and I for one hope that that we see a renaissance in Scottish rugby.
So having watched all the games I thought I would pick my “Best” and “Worst” XV’s from what I’ve seen starting with the Best XV:-
8 Welsh, 3 English, 2 Irish, 1 French and 1 Scot.
And the “Least Best” (or most disappointing performers) XV:-
4) O Callaghan
6 Scots, 3 Irish, 3 French, 2 Italian, 1 English.
Best game: Ireland 21-23 Wales
Worst game: Italy 13-6 Scotland
Best try: Jonathan Davies 2nd vs Ireland
Man of the Tournament: Dan Lydiate
But they are only my thoughts! I know you’ve all been in agreement with me throughout the tournament(!) but I’d love to know your Best/Worst XV’s and your favourite moments from the action.