So, there is a very interesting week ahead in the Six Nations with many permutations as to the final title still on the table. One of the four teams in contention for the title will fall from contention at Twickenham in what should be another robust encounter. This week’s Dyer’s 6N Blog is in two parts. In part one he provides his look back at Round 3 and in part two he will provide his predictions for Round 4.
“So after 9 games played I have 7 correct predictions so far. That would have been 8 if not for Duncan Weir’s late heroics in Rome which gave Scotland a much needed win.
Wales vs France
However I will start the review in Cardiff where Wales put their Dublin horror show behind them. This was as simple a victory as you could hope for at test level. Whilst Wales will be pleased with the margin of the win, there were still question marks after the game. How good were Wales? Were they approaching their best or was it simply that France were hopeless? The truth probably lies somewhere between the two. The Welsh physicality was back with the home pack certainly punishing at the breakdown. However France were clueless. In my Round 3 preview I mentioned that watching Les Bleus play this prescriptive style (if they do actually have a game plan) is a travesty. The body language of the French players gave away a lot. It looks like an unhappy camp lacking in leadership. To see a player of Picamoles class resort to football style childishness added further frustration to those of us who want to see France rediscover their playing “joie de vivre”. Unfortunately we don’t know how much Wales have put right some of the other wrongs in their game. Yes the forwards were physical and the likes of Warburton, Jenkins, Lydiate and Roberts showed something of their old selves but for me the jury remains out.
Italy vs Scotland
This was an enjoyable game to watch despite its “must win” nature for both sides. Italy should have been further ahead at half time and credit must go to Scotland for their second half performance. They were staring down the barrel but produced a display of character led by the returning Gray and Beattie and enhanced by the early second half entrance of Denton and the added zip later from Cusiter. It’s amazing what can be achieved when you have your best players on the field. Italy will again rue missed opportunities and a number of basic defensive mistakes. They could and perhaps should have won the game and it will be a bitter pill to swallow. They are now staring at a whitewash when I’ve felt they have actually moved further in the right direction. Scotland will now feel they can build on this win when the troubled French come to Murrayfield in Round 4.
England v Ireland
It didn’t need a rocket scientist to know this would be a close one. I suggested a draw was not improbable and that certainly could have been the outcome. Ireland will question why they didn’t get a penalty at a late scrum but that would have masked a poor final quarter for the visitors. After Care’s excellently worked score, the Irish seemed to panic and lost direction. England again looked good in parts but failed to take some early chances. May should have scored with the first attack after an impressive team build up. England are playing a simple game in attack. They use Burrell to give them a midfield target and then look to use two men quick rucks to keep as many attacking players on their feet to keep options and width on both the right and left flanks. This worked well in periods but once Ireland put more numbers into the breakdown they started to turn England over and wrestled back the initiative. England seemed to lose momentum pretty quickly and this is perhaps an Achilles heel that needs to be addressed. But a win is a win and having dug deep they will take a lot of confidence into their remaining games. Due to the closeness of the defeat Ireland will know they have missed a massive opportunity for a slam. However they remain in the driving seat for the title due to their better point’s difference.