Dyer’s Six Nations Blog, Week 2

Date: 13 February 2012

Following on from week 2 of the Six Nations our resident blogger, Gareth Dyer, rounds up all the action from the weekend. Once again all views expressed are his own and are in no way the views of the club. Enjoy and please feel free to comment below the article.

So that was round two! Well almost. I think the less said about the farcical events that led to the ridiculously late postponement in Paris the better. On the pitch England and Wales remain unbeaten whilst Scotland and Italy remain without a win. The former two sides now go head to head at Twickenham in a fortnight whilst the latter two would appear to he heading towards a Wooden Spoon shootout on the final weekend.

I’ll start with Saturday’s game in Rome. Lawrence Dallaglio writing in yesterday’s Sunday Times suggested it “was a hell of a game”. Not sure about that one Lol. Perhaps the big man had too much Chianti on Saturday evening before writing his Sunday newspaper column. If that was the case then I, for one, would not have blamed him. I could certainly have done with a drink after watching the game.

My pre-match thoughts were that England would have enough to win but that it wouldn’t be pretty. I questioned whether Italy could make home advantage pay and whether they could score tries. The conditions were difficult and this no doubt had an effect. However whilst Italy were gifted two tries, England in the end did enough to win as the home side imploded on the back of some woeful kicking and indecision at half back. Did we learn anything more about the “New England”? Err, not really has to be the honest answer. The character, hard work and pride in the shirt were there once more but any semblance of an attacking game was lost in the Roman snow. England were criticised heavily in yesterday’s press, some of it justified but some of it not. Yes the first 40 minutes were dire in terms of quality and at 15-6 you sensed a first Italian win over the Red Rose was very much on the cards. So for a mostly inexperienced side not to panic and to be able to turn the game around quickly has to be worthy of praise. The frustration comes in that the things England were good at under Martin Johnson (defence, organisation, kicking penalties) would still appear to be the things that England are concentrating on and basing their game around.

With a new coaching staff and a move to a youthful squad (supposedly free of the playing constraints adopted by the previous regime) it was hoped by England supporters that a more positive style of play may be forthcoming. I appreciate that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but you can at least make a start? Perhaps being away from home in the first two rounds has required the conservative style to be kept in place for a little while longer whilst the players and coaches find their feet. Will a return to HQ though see a more positive approach? The introduction of Morgan and Dickson on Saturday certainly seemed to galvanise England with both providing some much needed energy with the ball in hand. For twenty minutes it looked like England may break the shackles and show some attacking intent that would overwhelm the one paced Italians. Alas, as quickly as it appeared it was gone with a reversion to the slow and methodical pattern of the first half. Owen Farrell again showed maturity in his place kicking but he was very much on the periphery of things when it came to attack.

It may still be far too early to be calling for changes in selection. Lancaster has won his first two games, both away from home and conditions on Saturday were not good. However if the new era is to retain supporter goodwill you sense that England may need to show more in their three remaining games to convince their public that the team is capable of scoring from more than charge downs and penalties.

And what of Italy? They must be desperately disappointed to have lost but have only themselves to blame. They are in desperate need of a fly half and it is a mystery that their most talented playmaker and natural fly half (Luke McLean) is being played out on the wing. When Burton was substituted it seemed a wise call. Little did those watching know that things would get worse for the Italians. The forwards must have felt totally let down. Yes Italy scored two tries but these were not the result of anything inventive. Two mistakes by Foden apart, the home side never looked like creating any space or executing a move of note. Again they may have to concentrate on beating Scotland to avoid another wooden spoon.

Sunday in Cardiff was a bruising affair. Pre-match I suggested it would be close and that the Scottish try drought would come to an end. For the first half both teams went at each other with an intensity which had been missing 24 hours earlier in Rome. The juggernaut Welsh backs threw everything at the visitors but were met with fierce resistance led by a superb effort from the Scottish back row. Rennie and Denton were superb with Wales seemingly missing their talismanic skipper at the breakdown. Welsh mistakes were seized upon by the Scots with the away side growing in confidence as the half wore on. However they again could not turn pressure into points and the game was taken away from them in the fifteen minutes after half time.

Indiscipline and some costly errors ensured that the home side were able to score 24 points in the third quarter of the match. Andy Robinson must have been apoplectic with the indiscipline shown by Messrs De Luca and Lamont in reducing the visitors down to 13 men. However Scotland can take heart from the displays of the forwards once again whilst they may finally have found some cutting edge behind with Laidlaw and the replacement Hogg looking threatening with the ball in hand. If they could unearth an outside centre of any note then they may be in business.

Wales will know that they again made far too many mistakes with the lineout again being their Achilles heel. They were also guilty of overplaying in the wrong areas which allowed the feisty Scots to force them into errors. However they are two wins from two and again scored three well worked tries. They head to Twickenham in a fortnight with the Triple Crown up for grabs. The Welsh management will be keen to get one or two of their injured forwards back in the fold whilst they will have to assess the seriousness of the ankle injury suffered by George North. They will have to improve to win at Twickenham but they will know that if they can cut out the unforced errors then they have the cutting edge to do damage.

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