Six Nations Round 2: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly…

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THE GOOD, The Bad, and The Ugly. What a weekend of Six Nations rugby.

The Good

Once again getting off to a slow start, England signed off with six tries and a 30-point margin. The point difference could prove to be decisive at the end of March. Although they will have to step it up defensively against Ireland at the end of the month, England played some excellent rugby for substantial periods and will go into the crucial encounter with belief, determination, and enthusiasm. Momentum is key in rugby. Better yet, having a set of players with the ability to create everything out of nothing can be equally important. All teams have one go-to man if they are stuck in a particular pattern that is leading nowhere or closed down by their opposition’s structure and work-ethic. The All Blacks have that player in Julian Savea, who scores tries for fun and repeatedly makes his marker look like a junior player chasing shadows. The Springboks have the golden Willie Le Roux/Bryan Habana-combination. Australia are usually looking to Israel Folau for his tricks and footwork. Wesley Fofana, with his exceptional ability to anticipate space or creating it himself with his speed and agility, is France’s key asset. Moreover, the charismatic Sergio Parisse is the prime example. Jonathan Joseph’s name now belongs to the same category of the aforementioned players following two standout performances. Wherever he is on the pitch or whatever his move is, it seems to create havoc for the opposing side. Three tries in two outings is the result so far. His first try against Italy was especially phenomenal, and shows what he is capable of. There is definitely more to come from him.

The Bad

Glen Jackson: The two yellow cards, Finn Russell and Jonathan Davies, were, in my opinion, correct. However, his lack of consistency was worrying as he failed to send more players to the bin as the discipline decreased and the penalty count increased. Moreover, there were also another few major issues: first, he awarded an incredible thirty penalties, thirteen and seventeen to Scotland and Wales respectively. Second, you have the TMO decisions, or rather the lack of them. Neither did Jackson go upstairs just before halftime when Greig Laidlaw went down close to the Welsh try-line, nor when Mark Bennett went over for a disallowed try in the second half. Third, he ended the game with a few seconds left on the clock when Finn Russell successfully converted the late try for Scotland. I would not be surprised if Mr. Jackson received a Christmas card from Vern Cotter in December.

The Ugly

The high-scoring match at Twickenham was followed by a brutal stand-off between two sets of ferocious packs in Dublin. For the occasional onlooker, the game appeared to be tedious and boring, yet for a rugby fanatic the game was an incredibly interesting defensive-oriented display in a game that had pretty much everything. It was a game of two halves as Ireland and France controlled possession for the majority in the first and second half respectively. It was a gritty stalemate between two hard-hitting packs that resulted in some nasty hits and numerous turnovers and kickable penalties. Johnny Sexton was involved in two head-to-head collisions as he stood his ground when Mathieu Bastareaud charged down into his channel. Pascal Pape, the French No. 5, was sin-binned for kneeing Jamie Heaslip in the back and has now been cited for the incident. It was a very physical game, with only one try by France in the second half as lock Romain Taofifenua crossed for his first International try.

…..And another few aspects

  • France need to sort out their team behind their pack. Wesley Fofana was left alone on the wing. If France are going to compete for the title they need to involve Fofana in their gameplan. Moreover, Morgan Parra should start against Wales. As soon as he stepped onto the pitch on Saturday he changed the game and dictated the tempo. Rory Kockott does not have the same capability and qualities.
  • England must do something about their defensive setup if they are to beat Ireland. Once again, they got off to a slow start and Italy stretched the England defense on a number of occasions resulting in three superb and well-deserved tries. They have now conceded four tries in two matches. Defense is key to win the championship.
  • It was nice to see Johnny Sexton back in action and being awarded the MotM. He constantly puts his body on the line. His kicking was sublime, both in hand and from the tee, after twelve weeks off the pitch. Incredible player.
  • Italy: What next? They have now lost seven successive Six Nations games. They need to change something drastically if they are to beat Scotland, which I do not think they will. Luca Morisi, with two excellent tries, is one of the few youngsters Italy should rely on and build their team around.
  • Sergio Parisse. A one-man army; the tank, the cavalry, the arsenal, and the general of Italy. What a player. He never stops fascinating me.

Team of the Week:teamoftheweek

15 – Leigh Halfpenny: Wales
14 – Anthony Watson: England
13 – Luca Morisi: Italy
12 – Robbie Henshaw: Ireland
11 – Jonathan Joseph: England
10 – Johnny Sexton: Ireland
9 – Connor Murray: Ireland
8 – Sergio Parisse: Italy
7 – Chris Robshaw: England
6 – Peter O’Mahony: Ireland
5 – Alun Wyn Jones: Wales
4 – Devin Toner: Ireland
3 – Dan Cole: England
2 – Ross Ford: Scotland
1 – Joe Marler: England