Six Nations: Round 1 review and Round 2 preview

Oliver Matthews Roar Guru

By Oliver Matthews, Oliver Matthews is a Roar Guru

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    In the first weekend of the Northern Hemisphere’s premier rugby tournament, a lot of questions were raised.

    Wales 34-7 Scotland
    The Welsh result surprised me. To be more precise, the poor performance from Scotland shocked me.

    Yes, they were missing some key players, especially in the front row, but the Scots will be sorely disappointed in the way they played.

    It’s a rugby cliche for sure but the Scots tried to go wide before they’d earned the right and far too many of their best players were average to poor. The heads up, exciting, running style of play that had been their trademark for much of 2017 was missing and instead they looked a bit headless.

    With the front row depleted of experience, the Scottish back row needed to be effective in all rucks, and make sure they gave good, quick ball to attack from. Instead, they were ineffective.

    Meanwhile, the Welsh gameplan was fresh and exciting. The ten Scarlets players who started, not surprisingly, brought good combinations that others complemented.

    France 13-15 Ireland
    An average game to watch for 80 minutes has gone down in folklore, because of the final few minutes – over 40 phases of error-free play from Ireland and a 40-metre drop goal from Johnny Sexton.

    The expectation that the Irish would be able to find gaps was not realised, as the French presented a solid blue wall for the whole game, never letting the visitors cross their try line.

    Their level of commitment will give their new coach hope, and if they can become a really hard team to beat, then that is a good foundation to bring back some of the French flair.

    As for the Irish, they both disappointed and impressed. The lack of any tries was a shame and not really surprising with the very direct game style that the men in green used. If this was a deliberate decision by Joe Schmidt, then zero tries might not alarm, but it was strange they didn’t look to exploit the French out wide.

    The ability for Ireland to produce over 40 phases of play at the 80-minute mark without a single error captured the attention and while there was a lot of going sideways, their resolve shows this team is tracking well.

    One thought that lingered from this match was how reliant the Irish are on Sexton. If he has a poor game or is injured, it’s hard to see how they can still reach the same heights.

    Sadly, the second-biggest story from the game was HIA-gate and the French will be investigated for how they managed the assessment and treatment of players.

    Italy 15-46 England
    This was a good win for England away from home, but never really in doubt.

    Eddie Jones will have been impressed by Sam Simmonds at 8 – the Exeter man might not be challenging Billy Vunipola for the starting position but he definitely offers something exciting. His pace and good lines in slightly wider channels around the break down proved very effective and he tackled anything that moved all day long.

    George Ford and Owen Farrell continued their partnership and looked to use some more planned moves to unlock the opposition. Will they do the same against the better sides in the tournament, especially off first phase-ball where there should be less space and no easy overlaps?

    The Italians were better than in the Spring Internationals, but it was always going to be a tough day for them. There have been signs this season of improvement at the Italian club level, which is critical, and perhaps the national side know that for the time being the most important thing they can do is just keep trying their best. Their centres though showed some good skill and pace, and the two tries they scored should be celebrated.

    They’ve only got one more home game this tournament, so will have to try and impress on the road.

    Round 2 predictions
    Ireland vs Italy
    Ireland will want to cross the white line a number of times to make sure they don’t get out of the habit, and there’s no reason to suggest this won’t happen in Dublin against an Italian side that conceded seven tries in Round 1.

    Ireland to win by 23

    England vs Wales
    The match-up of the round sees a confident Wales heading to Twickenham to face an England side marching towards a third straight Six Nations title.

    England’s experience, talent and home advantage should see them win, but if the Welsh can get in early and disrupt the home side’s patterns, they have a chance.

    Leigh Halfpenny’s deadly boot will mean any indiscretion from England within 40 metres of their line could cost them three points time and again.

    England to win by 8

    Scotland vs France
    If the Scots play patiently and get ahead by enough at the 50-minute mark, then Les Bleus’ hearts might be broken enough to make the final 30 minutes comfortable for the home side.

    But those speedy French wingers can score from anywhere, so the Scots will need to kick and chase well.

    Scotland to win by 12

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • February 9th 2018 @ 4:48am
      English twizz said | February 9th 2018 @ 4:48am | ! Report

      England Wales game the Welsh need to be in front after 60 mins because last week when they started subbing there was a big drop off and England have 4 lions on the bench

      • February 10th 2018 @ 5:06am
        Chaz said | February 10th 2018 @ 5:06am | ! Report

        In theory yes, except in 2015 RWC and 2016, England were cruising until the last quarter, when Wales suddenly and unexpectedly picked up the pace dramatically. Something to do with fitness and never say die attitude against England.

    • February 9th 2018 @ 4:34pm
      Cuw said | February 9th 2018 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

      England:

      15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Danny Care,

      8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Mako Vunipola

      Replacements:

      16 Jamie George, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 George Kruis, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Jack Nowell

      Wales:

      15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies,

      8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans

      Replacements:

      16 Elliot Dee, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 George North

      Date: Saturday, February 10
      Venue: Twickenham
      Kick-off: 16:45 GMT

      Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
      Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Nic Berry (Australia)
      TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

      Italy:

      15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Marcello Violi,

      8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Braam Steyn, 6 Sebastien Negri, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Nicola Quaglio

      Replacements:

      16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Andrea Lovotti, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Maxime Mata Mbanda, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Jayden Hayward

      Ireland:

      15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray,

      8 Jack Conan, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath

      Replacements:

      16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Jordan Larmour

      Date: Saturday, February 10
      Venue: Aviva Stadium
      Kick-off: 14:15 GMT

      Referee: Romain Poite (France)
      Assistant referees: Pascal Gaüzère (France), Matthew Carley (England)
      Television match official: David Grashoff (England)

      Scotland:

      15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Pete Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw,

      8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Gordon Reid

      Replacements:

      16 Scott Lawson, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 David Denton, 21 Ali Price, 22 Chris Harris, 23 Blair Kinghorn

      Date: Sunday, February 11
      Venue: Murrayfield
      Kick-off: 15:00 GMT

      Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
      Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
      Television match official: Rowan Kitt (England)

    • February 9th 2018 @ 6:12pm
      Rugby is Life said | February 9th 2018 @ 6:12pm | ! Report

      I have no idea how you can say that the Irish are tracking well. Holding onto the ball foe multiple phases doesn’t produce points. It was boring to watch and they could not get across the line just trying to bash it up and hang. So many times they did this and it ended up with a turnover. French weren’t much better but were definitely more enterprising.

      England on the other hand are learning from the AB’s All of their tries were within 5 phases. Like Ireland when they chose to hang on to the ball they turned it over after large phase counts. England like the ABs are looking to score early and if they are not making progress they resort to the kick to ensure the game is played in the other half. They then pressed Italy into plenty of mistakes in their own hand.

      Prior to this 6 nations I saw talk of an all Northern Hemisphere final. Based on the codswallop dished up on the weekend only England has a glimmer of hope.

      • February 9th 2018 @ 6:46pm
        English twizz said | February 9th 2018 @ 6:46pm | ! Report

        Semi final will be harder for all blacks or England than the final at the World Cup next year

      • Roar Guru

        February 9th 2018 @ 8:26pm
        Oliver Matthews said | February 9th 2018 @ 8:26pm | ! Report

        Whilst I agree that in general there is no direct line comparison between possession and points in this game those 41 phases were are all about getting in to a position to score enough points to win the game with the final play of the game – and they did it.

        If that had happened earlier in the game then I’d agree that it wasn’t as impressive but to do it at that stage of the game, for that length of time and without a single error shows a resolve that is hard to get for many teams.

        I’d also say that as with so many sports – winning away from home is critical if you want to be one of the world’s best. The conditions weren’t great, the Irish didn’t play that well and the French’s defense was better than many expected. Given that – picking up a win is a big deal.

        Plus this game sits in a broader context – a context where the Irish had a good 2017 that ended with wins in each of their 3 Spring Internationals.

        For sure there are some points of concern – over reliance on Sexton, lack of a second play maker, boring game play in that French game that fans hope wont be repeated – but in general when a team shows that it has the ability to dig in and go through 40 phases of play to win a game in the dying minutes I’d say that’s a positive.

    • February 10th 2018 @ 1:48am
      Tim said | February 10th 2018 @ 1:48am | ! Report

      Italy could, and should, have been within 3points well into the 2H. Comparing England to the ABs … please.

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