So our resident Six Nations tipster scored a full house from Round 4 and now has 10 correct predictions from the 12 games played as we move into the final round of fixtures. Here our Director of Rugby Gareth Dyer gives his thoughts on Round 4.
Ireland vs Italy
This game went with the form book. Ireland were in no mood to weaken their overall position in the championship standings and after quelling the Italians opening burst they took complete control. As I mentioned, their approach would have been to make their trip to Paris in the final round all about winning the game and they achieved this without too much fuss and more importantly no injury concerns. Italy were brave but without the likes of Parisse, Bergamasco and Zanni it was all about damage limitation. Ireland look in good shape and now know its all about winning in Paris.
Scotland vs France
I think I can afford myself a pat on the back for this one. My comments of “Scotland may improve further in defeat” and that France would somehow find a way to “scrape a win” were spot on. Scotland should have won and they will know that. A positive is that in their last two games they have started to score tries. However they should have had more in this game and won with something to spare. France’s continued luck is centred on some high class individual performances shining out of some woeful team ones. Huget’s try being a clear example. Scotland should have walked the ball over the line but the instinctive reading of the game gave Les Bleus the opportunity to go on and win the game. Overall France were still clueless and whilst the phrase “he who laughs last…” comes to mind, I see little to smile about as a French fan. Their luck must surely come to an end against Ireland? For Scotland, they will travel to Cardiff with increasing confidence that they now have some sort of performance platform to play from.
England vs Wales
Beforehand I went with England who were playing the more consistent rugby and who were certainly a fresher team. This proved to be the case but England added something more to their earlier displays by retaining a strong pace to their game for the full 80. It was almost a swapping of traditional styles as one team played with width and invention whilst the other preferred a kicking and power game. England were sharper in all aspects and certainly looked a team playing without fear. This was a complete contrast to Wales. Their thinking looked muddled and their approach obvious and error strewn. In these days of superb physical preparation I don’t believe that Wales were physically tired but I wonder how mentally fresh they were.
For the second time this season they were stopped from applying their game plan and looked short of ideas again as to how to change it when Plan A is obviously not working. The kicking away of possession in key attacking areas by North and Roberts clearly showed that they had lost their way. For England the frustration has to be that they lost to France and didn’t put the points on Scotland that their dominance at Murrayfield should have yielded. They are now reliant on France stopping the Irish party and whilst strange things have happened with France in this tournament, I have a feeling it won’t happen on the weekend. A Triple Crown is a tangible reward for their improvement in this year’s tournament. They are on an upward curve and have some exciting players warming quickly to international rugby. The rate of improvement may slow and the marginal gains will be harder to come by but they appear well equipped to build on what has been a well orchestrated improvement under Stuart Lancaster.
Be sure to check back with the website later in the week for Gareth’s final round predictions.