Six Nations Championship – Round 1 preview: North powerhouses go head to head

Oliver Matthews Roar Guru

By Oliver Matthews, Oliver Matthews is a Roar Guru

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    Panic not: top-tier rugby is back, and while the time zones of the Northern Hemisphere’s premium rugby competition might not be overly friendly, there should be some good games over the next few weeks.

    It’s also an opportunity to reignite the ‘road to Japan’ discussions as we get to see how the best in Europe are travelling and maybe even to touch on how three of the four top nations – England, Ireland and Wales – are led by Southern Hemisphere coaches.

    Over the coming weeks we’ll review each weekend’s performances and follow the stories of the championship. For now, though, let’s look at the first round’s matches. As a reminder, here’s how the teams ended up last year.

    1. England – 4 wins, 1 loss
    2. Ireland – 3-2
    3. France – 3-2
    4. Scotland – 3-2
    5. Wales – 2-3
    6. Italy – 0-5

    Round 1, 2018

    Wales vs Scotland
    Scotland had a good 2017 and improved in a lot of areas. However, they go into this weekend’s game against Wales with some serious injury problems. Their front row has been decimated and their overall desire to attack is going to be severely hampered if their backs can’t get good, quick, clean ball.

    Coach Gregor Townsend has carried his attacking style from his playing days, through his coaching time at Glasgow and into his time in charge of the national side. It’s going to be interesting to see what he has in store for the Welsh. His team will likely look to attack in new and unusual ways that keep the home side guessing.

    Warren Gatland is threatening that Wales will unleash an attacking force in this tournament as they try to move on from the years of Warren Ball. But Wales too are suffering from a number of injuries to first-choice players, including Dan Biggar, Sam Warburton, Jonathan Davies, Rhys Webb and Taulupe Faletau. That’s a huge amount of talent missing.

    Gatland has responded by selecting ten players from Welsh club side Scarlets (first place in Conference B of the Pro 14) in the hope one assumes that their combinations and familiarity with one another will fill some of the gaps his team are suffering.

    One of the youngsters worth keeping an eye on is Reece Patchell at number ten. He’s an exciting player and arguably fits the vision that Gatland has for how he wants Wales playing in the future.

    Scotland will be keen to build on the successes of 2017. If they stumble now and go back to the bottom of the Six Nations ladder, last year will have meant nothing. But if they can keep the momentum going, they could be setting themselves up for an exciting 2019.

    This really is going to be a very tight game. While the Welsh have the home advantage, the Scots have momentum and a growing belief that they can win the tight games.

    Scotland to win by three.

    (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

    France vs Ireland
    It’s unusual to say that a French side playing at home is the underdog, but in this match they most certainly are. Long gone are the days of destructive French teams giving their opponents nightmares; the current side are low on confidence and their domestic league is earning a reputation for being a well-paid but brutal experience that beats the energy and creativity from too many of its players.

    Jacques Brunel takes charge for his first match as French coach and is entrusting his hopes to the 19-year-old Matthieu Jalibert, who he used to coach at Bordeaux-Begles. The teenager has a whole lot of potential, and if he can get some good ball from his forwards, then his free-spirited attacking flair could make for an exciting afternoon.

    Ireland are in an interesting position. They are one of the form sides in world rugby at the moment and had a clean sweep against their Southern Hemisphere opponents in November. However, they have lost some serious experience, and of the 36 players in the current squad, almost half of them have less than ten international caps.

    In those lesser experienced players there are some exciting up-and-comers, however. Jacob Stockdale, who has scored four tries in his four appearances so far, gets to start and has some serious gas the Irish will be looking to use to exploit the bigger but arguably slower French backs.

    It’s going to be exciting to see some fresh talent in this match, especially the French number ten in his debut, but Ireland should have too much for the home side.

    Ireland to win by 10.

    (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

    Italy vs England
    In many ways this match is quite simple. If England play at their best or near their best, they will win. Italy simply cannot match them. However, if Italy can disrupt England’s rhythm and take their opportunities – and get lucky – then there could be some intrigue in this match.

    Last year the Italians brought us ‘ruckgate’ when they confused England to a standstill with their non-compete approach at the tackle and lack of an offside line, but things have changed since then and Italy have continued to struggle at the international level.

    Going into the tournament as favourites is not a surprise for England. Their good run continued under Eddie Jones in the recent internationals, with good wins over South Africa and Australia the highlights from November 2017.

    Against Samoa, while there wasn’t evidence of the exciting attacking rugby that their fans crave, there were signs of a side that were getting smarter. After a poor first half Eddie Jones apparently left the team to figure it out for themselves, which they did well in the second half. This wisdom and insight is going to be critical if they want to keep the momentum going into next year’s big dance.

    Through a combination of injuries and a desire to develop more depth Jones is likely to start a number of less experienced players in this year’s championship. Zach Mercer, a star in last year’s under-20s World Cup, sadly misses out due to illness, but 24-year-old loose head Alec Hepburn is likely to make his debut.

    For the Italians there are definite signs of improvement at the club level, which is critical for the future success of the game, but the national side continue to struggle and have won just once in the Six Nations since 2014.

    Sergio Parisse will lead the team, like he always does, with passion and determination. He needs his team to go with him for the full 80 minutes and keep fighting. Coach Conor O’Shea knows that his team are starting as huge underdogs, but he’s commented recently that he’s excited about the tournament and sees it as another chance for the team to make progress. Of course eventually progress has to turn into wins, otherwise it just doesn’t matter.

    England to win by 14.

    (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

    Tournament predictions
    It’s clear that there are plenty of injuries impacting all teams at the start of this year’s championship. This further strengthens England’s run at the title – their depth gives them a real advantage when players are dropping like flies.

    That being said, there is a lot of expectation on the up-and-coming players who will be taking the field over the coming weeks. It’ll be interesting to see how these less experienced men look to stamp their name on the competition, but at this point it’s hard to look past another England Six Nations title.

    Have Your Say



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    The Crowd Says (102)

    • February 4th 2018 @ 8:20am
      Fionn said | February 4th 2018 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      I think Ireland are being intelligent and ensuring that they have experience in most key positions, while continuing to build depth so that they cannot be decimated by injuries like in the 215 WC. The final play leading to Sexton’s drop goal was fantastic.

      It was a little disappointing to see Scotland put on such a tepid display, but Wales played with intent and were very dangerous. I think Garland will have some selection headaches when his first choice guys start coming back from injury.

      • February 4th 2018 @ 11:26am
        Fiji said | February 4th 2018 @ 11:26am | ! Report

        Good to see the Australian/Samoan rugby league player Ben Te’o in the England starting side. What a globalised world we live in.

        • February 4th 2018 @ 12:17pm
          FunBus said | February 4th 2018 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

          Actually, he’s Samoan/English, having a Samoan father and an English mother. It was his time in Australia that reveals what a ‘globalised world’ it is.

        • February 4th 2018 @ 12:19pm
          Jacko said | February 4th 2018 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

          Australian/Samoan born in NZ….Very cosmopolitian

          • February 4th 2018 @ 7:31pm
            FunBus said | February 4th 2018 @ 7:31pm | ! Report

            How would you describe Koroibete, Speight, Kuridrani, Kerevi, ‘the Tongan Thor’, Naholo, Tamanivalu, Tu’ungafasi, Laulala etc etc?

            • February 5th 2018 @ 4:13am
              Taylorman said | February 5th 2018 @ 4:13am | ! Report

              Talented rugby players perhaps? None of whom learned the game in the NH? Only two things I can think of that’s describes them all.

          • February 5th 2018 @ 4:11am
            Taylorman said | February 5th 2018 @ 4:11am | ! Report

            Aah, so after all that he’s actually a kiwi, glad we got that sorted.

            • February 5th 2018 @ 7:29am
              FunBus said | February 5th 2018 @ 7:29am | ! Report

              There’s more English blood running round the veins of Ben T’eo than there is Kiwi blood round the four examples I mentioned above.
              An Argentinian or South African can have a dig – from a Kiwi, or any other nationality it’s sad, pathetic, and deeply hypocritical.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 7:38am
                Jerry said | February 5th 2018 @ 7:38am | ! Report

                Is it actually though? Those guys you mentioned aren’t analogous to Te’o in the slightest. They were born in another country but are, to some degree, products of the NZ rugby system.

                Someone like Brad Thorn would be a comparison, perhaps but that’s one guy in the entire history of pro rugby and even he was actually born in NZ and lived here for a time.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 8:14am
                FunBus said | February 5th 2018 @ 8:14am | ! Report

                In the England 23 that just played everyone was a product of the English rugby system apart from T’eo who came from rugby league.

              • Roar Guru

                February 5th 2018 @ 8:42am
                rebel said | February 5th 2018 @ 8:42am | ! Report

                sad, pathetic, and deeply hypocritical

                oh dear.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 9:16am
                aussikiwi said | February 5th 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

                Funless loves his pejoratives – mere hypocrisy will not suffice for this caped crusader. Has to be deep. And sad. And pathetic. Reminds me of the schoolyard saying ” what you say is what you are” ???

              • February 6th 2018 @ 2:12am
                FunBus said | February 6th 2018 @ 2:12am | ! Report

                Hi AK. Still unhealthily obsessed?

              • February 6th 2018 @ 7:27pm
                aussikiwi said | February 6th 2018 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

                Hi Funless, yes you do seem still to be unhealthily obsessed with policing the perceived or imagined thought crimes of the uppity colonials. Therapy might help you…….

              • February 5th 2018 @ 10:19am
                Jerry said | February 5th 2018 @ 10:19am | ! Report

                That’s nice, Funbus.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 11:08am
                Taylorman said | February 5th 2018 @ 11:08am | ! Report

                So? Seems having a lot of English blood doesn’t equate to being a great rugby player now does it. History confirms that. Being born and playing the game here gives them a much better chance in rugby, obviously,

              • February 5th 2018 @ 12:00pm
                Taylorman said | February 5th 2018 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

                My point being I don’t care where they’re born. It’s that they choose a life here, play rugby through our system, then take that game, as the major reason for leaving, overseas.

                I’d like to see Japan grow exponentially, contract all the club players coming through in Europe them watch the squealing. What a waste they’ll say. All those players going there…for what!

                Exactly.

      • February 4th 2018 @ 3:28pm
        Fiji said | February 4th 2018 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

        Sorry Fionn, didn’t mean to hijack your comment – I thought I’d commented at the bottom.

        I know it won’t happen but I’d love to see Italy knock off England this weekend.

        • February 4th 2018 @ 7:40pm
          Fionn said | February 4th 2018 @ 7:40pm | ! Report

          It would be good for Italy – and Ireland ?

    • Roar Guru

      February 4th 2018 @ 8:26am
      Derm McCrum said | February 4th 2018 @ 8:26am | ! Report

      This really is going to be a very tight game. While the Welsh have the home advantage, the Scots have momentum and a growing belief that they can win the tight games.

      Scotland to win by three.

      Oops.

      • February 4th 2018 @ 8:33am
        Fionn said | February 4th 2018 @ 8:33am | ! Report

        Were you surprised by the result?

        • Roar Guru

          February 4th 2018 @ 8:34am
          Derm McCrum said | February 4th 2018 @ 8:34am | ! Report

          Nope Fionn. Not with the injuries they had. Underestimating Wales at home has shown up a few coaches.

          • February 4th 2018 @ 8:37am
            Fionn said | February 4th 2018 @ 8:37am | ! Report

            Wales seemed to have a fair few injuries too, and their new guys did alright.

            They’re really due a win or 3 against the Wallabies.

            Although I did read somewhere that Scotland had lost two entire front rows, so I guess it is pretty difficult to do well from that point.

            Congrats on the W. Fantastic composure building up to that drop goal with 40 odd phases.

          • February 4th 2018 @ 9:17am
            Taylorman said | February 4th 2018 @ 9:17am | ! Report

            True, just not the southern ‘based’ ones, well, two of em…?

            • February 4th 2018 @ 2:37pm
              Mmmmm..k said | February 4th 2018 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

              All about hemispheres?

              It’s not, it’s about countries and NZ uses players from other countries too.
              I guess that’s why it’s better for you to talk in terms of hemispheres.

              And make no mistake, if players from the NH did play in NZ through school scholarships etc, they’d play for NZ just as much as players like Naholo, Laulala, Fekitoa and Fafita.

              But they don’t count, being that those players come from other SH nations…not NZ but they do come from “our” hemisphere.

              • Roar Guru

                February 4th 2018 @ 3:24pm
                rebel said | February 4th 2018 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

                What’s all that got to do with coaches.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 4:15am
                Taylorman said | February 5th 2018 @ 4:15am | ! Report

                No, all about coaches. And NZ doesnt use them like the NH do. We develop them from the raw material. The NH buy the finished product. Big difference.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 4:31am
                Taylorman said | February 5th 2018 @ 4:31am | ! Report

                And mm, you give me the details of the players that arrived in NZ on school rugby sch9larships. The player, the school he was attending then went to, the name of the scholarship, the sponsors name and the terms of the scholarship.

                Rather than wave the word around as though it equates to contracting say Cruden, Sopoaga, Faumuina, Piutau, Luatua, and dozens more, all of whom went from amateurs to professionals via the NZ rugby programme, only to be auctioned off overseas’ how about you back it up with details, since you seem to know all about these scholarships.

                I think it is you that needs to stop thinking there’s some sore of balance going on there, cis there ain’t. We build em, the NH buy em, full stop.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 7:11am
                richard said | February 5th 2018 @ 7:11am | ! Report

                We are back to this poaching islanders schtick again,are we?How about anyone with a brown skin – incl. maoris – are not allowed to represent NZ at any level of the game.

                Will that make everyone happy?

              • February 5th 2018 @ 7:37am
                FunBus said | February 5th 2018 @ 7:37am | ! Report

                What would ‘make me happy’ Richard is if Kiwis would realize how pathetic and hypocritical they sound on this. Graeme Henry’s comment is still the definitive word on this:

                ‘The ABs would pick an Eskimo if it made the team better.’

              • February 5th 2018 @ 9:00am
                richard said | February 5th 2018 @ 9:00am | ! Report

                No.NZ has been subjected to this rubbish for years.And it was only ever an issue because NZ was successful.If we were an average team,it would never have been raised.And it was the north that started this crap.

                Now you have the north picking kiwis of island descent,but that’s alright because it is “within the rules”. I refer of course to the residency/grandparent rules,which are a crock and just a way of legally poaching talent.

                If the north are so concerned about the plight of PI rugby,why are they turning up in teams like England and Ireland?Ah yes,it’s only a problem when NZ use them.Then it is poaching.When you use them – it is apparently within the rules.

              • Roar Guru

                February 5th 2018 @ 9:40am
                rebel said | February 5th 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

                Pathetic and hypocritical?
                Wouldn’t that be the people that have been continuously calling NZ poachers over the years but are now silent.

              • Roar Guru

                February 5th 2018 @ 9:56am
                rebel said | February 5th 2018 @ 9:56am | ! Report

                Richard, the following link proves the hypocrisy of the last two decades.

                http://hautahi.com/rugbywanderers

                I recall Stephen jones saying that what NZ does is different as they screen for the best talent, where as other countries just give opportunities to average players. He also claimed Mealamu was poached from Tokoroa.
                He’s always good for a laugh.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 10:28am
                richard said | February 5th 2018 @ 10:28am | ! Report

                rebel,good old Stephen Jones.I always found his attacks on NZ laughable,and a little creepy.

                Occasionaly,he would even make a valid point,but there seemed to be real spite,even hatred.I sometimes think he is deranged.

              • February 6th 2018 @ 2:30am
                FunBus said | February 6th 2018 @ 2:30am | ! Report

                The really laughable thing is that Kiwis seem more obsessed with Stephen Jones than he is with you. He’s not a fan of how NZ rugby has always gone about its business, and he clearly believes their fans and media are coming in on one engine, but he’s hardly unique in that.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 11:17am
                Taylorman said | February 5th 2018 @ 11:17am | ! Report

                Yeah Richard, I think there’s a story behind that one from one of the 60’s AB tours, Jones got a bit burnt one night at a pub and never forgot it, dedicated his life to vengeance?

              • February 6th 2018 @ 5:58am
                Taylorman said | February 6th 2018 @ 5:58am | ! Report

                FB I don’t think he’s as obsessed with kiwis as you are.?

              • February 6th 2018 @ 6:30am
                richard said | February 6th 2018 @ 6:30am | ! Report

                Is that so FB? The same Stephen Jones,who at the 2012 Olympics was attacking NZ track athletes on social media?Not satisfied with confining it to rugby.

                That is what I would call “coming in on one engine”.

            • February 4th 2018 @ 7:48pm
              FunBus said | February 4th 2018 @ 7:48pm | ! Report

              The issue for Wales, which infuriates their fans, is that they stroll out in the November internationals like they’re friendlies. It annoys England fans as well. Every year we watch a disorganized rabble prat around in front of a half-full, quiet stadium, then when we go down there 3 months later the same players charge out with their eyes on stalks, 5m quicker, with a throbbing stadium of drunk fans screaming for murder.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 11:12am
                Taylorman said | February 5th 2018 @ 11:12am | ! Report

                Umm, that’s kinda their choice to do so isn’t it?

              • February 5th 2018 @ 12:10pm
                Jerry said | February 5th 2018 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

                Maybe that says something about the English.

              • February 6th 2018 @ 2:15am
                FunBus said | February 6th 2018 @ 2:15am | ! Report

                Maybe that comment says something about Kiwis as well Jerry.

              • February 6th 2018 @ 12:44am
                Goatee said | February 6th 2018 @ 12:44am | ! Report

                @ TM – ‘Umm, that’s kinda their choice to do so isn’t it?’

                Choice? What has ‘choice’ got to do with it? Oh! you mean like the professional rugby players from the SH who choose to earn their living playing in the NH?

                @ Jerry – ‘Maybe that says something about the English.’

                No. Perhaps it says more about the hypocrisy of certain Kiwis, who on one hand, intimate that one’s right to choose or make ‘choices’, is a valid construct (that comes seemingly, with living in a free society?) and then on the other, tell NH club owners and SH rugby players (and their families) that their freedom to make choices, no longer applies (because it doesn’t suit their narrative). Get over yourself, Taylorman!

              • February 6th 2018 @ 5:59am
                Taylorman said | February 6th 2018 @ 5:59am | ! Report

                Yes Goatee, who said it wasn’t?

              • February 6th 2018 @ 6:58am
                Goatee said | February 6th 2018 @ 6:58am | ! Report

                So, just to clarify, TM… You endorse the right of NH club owners (should they choose to do so) to offer financial inducements, in order to secure the services of players, world-wide, at their clubs?

                Similarly, you endorse the right of SH players to choose to accept these contracts, if they wish to do so?

                Just so that we’re clear here…

              • February 6th 2018 @ 7:11am
                Taylorman said | February 6th 2018 @ 7:11am | ! Report

                Ive always said it was fine for players to go north to pursue the dollars as individuals, I just dont like it as a fan.

                I think it’s a weak option for the northern sides in choosing overseas players over locals as they are for one denying local talent and two spending money that could otherwise be used for development.

                Personally I don’t believe the club owners have rugby’s interests where it needs to be which will collapse if the money goes sour. I’d hate to see four or five hundred players go out of work because the north succumbed to greed.

              • February 6th 2018 @ 8:21am
                Jerry said | February 6th 2018 @ 8:21am | ! Report

                Well, Goatee, your reply definitely says something about your inability to take a joke and your ability to miss the point of a post.

              • February 6th 2018 @ 9:16am
                Goatee said | February 6th 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

                @ Jerry – You mean there was a point to your post? Forgive me, my inability to grasp what it was, is an issue of deep regret… By the same token, please accept that my ability to laugh when confronted with humour, has never been in question (until now that is…)

              • February 6th 2018 @ 9:40am
                Goatee said | February 6th 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

                @ TM – That’s fine. I appreciate the distinction between endorsing someone’s ‘right’ to choose and not agreeing with the choices that are made.

                ‘I think it’s a weak option for the northern sides in choosing overseas players over locals as they are for one denying local talent and two spending money that could otherwise be used for development.’

                TM, you old fox you… I never knew you were so passionate about the development and quality of rugby in the NH?! Perhaps we can entice you away from NZ (with an appropriate financial package, of course) to assist us Poms, in the further development of our national side? Perhaps a Director of Rugby post, assisting EJ?

      • February 4th 2018 @ 8:40am
        Taylorman said | February 4th 2018 @ 8:40am | ! Report

        Yes, it’s typical of getting carried away from the AI’s, everyone saying Scotland this and that, Wales are poor.

        Well. Doesn’t work like that in the 6N. Russell had a Barrett mare type game, possibly because he’s been listening to all the kudos over the new year.

        Ireland were lucky as, Sexton making up well for that potential match losing chip to the winger, but they need to add more options to their game.

        England to coast in. Best chances to beat England interestingly are more likely France in Paris, and Wales! Before this Ireland and Scotland were the best bet.

        Typical 6N first weekend, where previous form largely means little, where few bar Wales, whose tries were assisted by poor Scottish defence and options, took their chances.

        • February 4th 2018 @ 9:23am
          Cynical Play said | February 4th 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

          Poor game form Russell. Multiple errors. Poor defence. Out of position leading to the intercept try. The commentators described the Scots as rudderless.

          • February 4th 2018 @ 9:35am
            Taylorman said | February 4th 2018 @ 9:35am | ! Report

            Yep CP, the 6N we know and love, built on a foundation of punishing errors and no risk play.

            Have you seen the English vs Italy side?…be a major if they lost a match this tournament. France might strangle them at home, but the backline looks as sharp as any Ive ever seen in an English side.

            England by 14?

            Conservatively speaking I’d hope. I think the backs will rip it up big time.

            • February 4th 2018 @ 9:43am
              FunBus said | February 4th 2018 @ 9:43am | ! Report

              You thought the Wales – Scotland match was characterised by ‘no risk play’?

            • February 4th 2018 @ 9:49am
              FunBus said | February 4th 2018 @ 9:49am | ! Report

              Interesting choice having Te’o at OC. Jones has been saying for a while he wants more bulk in the back line and there’s talk of using Nowell at OC. Won’t be long before Watson moves to full back. Probably when Daly returns on the SA tour.

              • February 4th 2018 @ 10:07am
                Taylorman said | February 4th 2018 @ 10:07am | ! Report

                Very (very) exciting backline. This will be fun to watch. Recalling looking forward to this one. If England get more than parity up front…they should at least at line out time, watch out. Can’t see anything but a big score, and many tries.

            • February 4th 2018 @ 10:00am
              Taylorman said | February 4th 2018 @ 10:00am | ! Report

              No, that was the error ridden match, Wales mostly punished the Scottish errors as opposed to being overly creative, and there were plenty.

              The France Ireland game saw an Irish side with little imagination bar taking fifty (thought I’d push that number up a couple) phases to go twenty yards for the drop goal. Did it well but…not pretty.

              • February 4th 2018 @ 10:17am
                FunBus said | February 4th 2018 @ 10:17am | ! Report

                The Irish will be disappointed with their performance, but know it’s a one-off and they’ll improve. To put it in perspective, though, that’s only the third time they’ve won in Paris. It’s never been a happy ground for them.

              • Roar Guru

                February 4th 2018 @ 10:46am
                Fionn said | February 4th 2018 @ 10:46am | ! Report

                I think winning ugly is one of the most important characteristics of a champion team. Finding a way to grind out ugly wins.

                I thought the same as you about England after their relatively poor showings against Wales and France last year, but then they stormed home powerfully after the 6N as opposed to declining.

              • February 4th 2018 @ 12:34pm
                Taylorman said | February 4th 2018 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

                Yep they’ve been much more clinical than this. They’re on an 8 match streak as well so something to play for there.

              • February 4th 2018 @ 4:35pm
                Cuw said | February 4th 2018 @ 4:35pm | ! Report

                @ Taylorman

                i think the new selections also helped Ireland a bit.

                Ok they were missing Heaslip and SOB in the 3rd row but France did not pick Piccamoles and also the prop Antonio.

                while 15 palis was ok ,IMO Spedding is still the better 15.

                thwn we come to the surprise 10 – the halftime commentary pundits all thought his inexperience showed , before the substitution.

                and speaking of substitutions – will there be a world rugby inquirey into the farce of France saying both their 9 and 10 went off for HIA , when it was clear and obvios to all that both had knee injuries ???

                Specially the case of DUPONT – becoz if it was not a HIA , then France had to play with 14 as all subs had been used.

                Owens clearly asks if the match doctor thinks its a HIA. now who appoints official match doctors??

                this is not the first time such has happened in France and in Europe.

              • February 4th 2018 @ 11:02pm
                Cathal said | February 4th 2018 @ 11:02pm | ! Report

                Mate if England were in Ireland’s shoes they wouldn’t have been much better, I know this because when England played in shit weather vs France (at home) & Ireland in the last 6N they scored 1 try over the 2 games and the latter game never looked like scoring a try except from a VERY IMAGINATIVE rolling maul which never got within 5M of the Irish line. You really need to understand context before you start exaggerating, Before this week Scotland were supposed to be in a 3 way tie for the 6N and Wales were also Rans, now 1 game later Scotland are also rans and Wales are competing to win the tournament, next they will get hammered by England and then we will be back to what we said at the beginning of the championship.

              • February 4th 2018 @ 11:05pm
                Cathal said | February 4th 2018 @ 11:05pm | ! Report

                Maybe also because Scotland are quite a poor team defensively and have the ability to self implode all the time due to there lack of experience. France while are messy are always very difficult to break down, in the last 4 6N games vs France Ireland have scored 1 try (Murray last year from 5 out), Ireland were much worse last year in Edinburgh without Sexton and still managed to score 3 tries so I think the fact it was France being good played more of a part than just Ireland being bad.

              • February 6th 2018 @ 1:44am
                HenryHoneyBalls said | February 6th 2018 @ 1:44am | ! Report

                Well sometimes when it is -2 degrees and p*****g rain its hard to be imaginative. Ireland handled the conditions well. I was at the game and it was bitterly cold in Paris. Add that to the fact that France defended well it was a good result in the end.

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

              Just a nonsense opening paragraph.

          • February 4th 2018 @ 7:34pm
            FunBus said | February 4th 2018 @ 7:34pm | ! Report

            The love-in on these boards for Russell came as a surprise. Half-decent and skilful, but has yet to show he doesn’t collapse when the real pressure comes on.

            • February 5th 2018 @ 4:18am
              Taylorman said | February 5th 2018 @ 4:18am | ! Report

              That describes many players though, Barrett, voted the best player in the world for two years, still gets rattled under pressure. Finn had a shocker, but he’s definitely talented, and is certainly a shift from the usual plodders with so called better reputations.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 7:41am
                FunBus said | February 5th 2018 @ 7:41am | ! Report

                I agree on Barrett. Probably the most talented player in the world, but he’s got to show he can handle it when the heat really gets applied.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 10:36am
                richard said | February 5th 2018 @ 10:36am | ! Report

                Agree here.Everyone talks about Barrett,great runner,but he is yet to show me he can control a game.And that is why I think Sopoaga is a major loss.

                Frankly,I would prefer a Sexton or a Farrell,give you more game control.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 11:20am
                Taylorman said | February 5th 2018 @ 11:20am | ! Report

                Ooh not Farrell, doesn’t create a thing. Ticks some boxes but doesn’t know how to fire a backline into action. One of those types that admires the path of the ball as it’s flying into touch, you know the type.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 12:11pm
                richard said | February 5th 2018 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

                I was thinking more in reference to his use of the boot.But,I do agree,he is not the most inventive player.

    • February 4th 2018 @ 9:33am
      Brisbane boys said | February 4th 2018 @ 9:33am | ! Report

      Unfortunately as a Scottish born Australian the worst thing I can say about Scotland is they played like Australia. When plan A did not work there was no plan B.

      The best thing I can say about Ireland is they played like NZ. Although they okay d poorly they had the belief to work up field for 49 phases after the bell and lad a clutch drop goal in the 83rd minute. Pure belief.

      • February 4th 2018 @ 9:38am
        Taylorman said | February 4th 2018 @ 9:38am | ! Report

        49 now? Wonder if we can get to 100 before the days out? ? did seem like a hundred though, very hard to watch those regardless of who you support, with one eye on the ref most of the time.?(pun intended)

        • February 4th 2018 @ 5:32pm
          Cuw said | February 4th 2018 @ 5:32pm | ! Report

          give both sides some credit – it was raining and neither side committed a mistake – like dropping the ball or a penalty.

          and i will say many did not expect that drop from so far out – it was like 45m ( coz the ruck was on the 40m).

          not as good as the Hunt drop in Highlanders match , but still way up there with the best 😀

          IMO it was the right result , coz they shud have played with 14 once Dupont got injured in the knee and not head !!!

          • February 5th 2018 @ 4:22am
            Taylorman said | February 5th 2018 @ 4:22am | ! Report

            Yep that’s fair, except you never seem to get great tests from poor conditions in the 6N. Everyone’s resigned to plodding through it.

            We have some great open, skilful matches this way in terrible conditions. For me it’s still about attitude and a willingness to try regardless. For most of this match it was just attrition attrition attrition, with everyone buying in to that, bar the last few minutes where one side finally produced some class.

            • February 6th 2018 @ 8:49pm
              HenryHoneyBalls said | February 6th 2018 @ 8:49pm | ! Report

              A bit like the 2011 rugby world cup final? You would swear by the way you crap on Taylorman NZ have never been involved in an attritional match.

              You don’t get as many attritional games in the rugby championship because NZ do not have much competition lately.

    • February 4th 2018 @ 9:40am
      FunBus said | February 4th 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      Ireland will get much, much better than that as the tournament progresses. Foul weather and first up in Paris is never an easy start. Particularly as France were killing everything in their own half. As an England fan it would probably have been to our advantage for France to win, but after the very dodgy HIA in the last 5 minutes I was cheering for Ireland.

      Scotland are over-hyped, and as I said a couple of days ago will get over-powered up front.

      • February 4th 2018 @ 9:44am
        Fionn said | February 4th 2018 @ 9:44am | ! Report

        ‘Scotland are over-hyped’

        But didn’t you see the extent they managed to beat Australia by?

        • February 4th 2018 @ 10:13am
          FunBus said | February 4th 2018 @ 10:13am | ! Report

          I thought the Wallabies race was run for the season by the Scotland game, and they’d put everything they had left into the England match.

          Also, I reckon Scotland are one of those teams that will play better against Oz, and even the ABs, then teams who beat them up, up-front.

        • February 4th 2018 @ 5:40pm
          Cuw said | February 4th 2018 @ 5:40pm | ! Report

          they are not over hyped. they lack depth.

          they have lost a lot of players to injury and that has a dual effect

          one – it disrupts the cohesion , with many new guys comming in and having to learn structures.

          two – it robs them of experience and quality. there is a reason we call some one a starter .

          for eg . Ritchie Gray would have been most welcome in the disastrous lineout.

          Taylor in centers and not forgetting the plethora of props.

          Wales had injuries too but they had quality replacements. No NORTh but Josh is ok. Faletau not there but Moriarty was ok.

          Sam was not there but Navidi is ok.

          • February 4th 2018 @ 7:39pm
            FunBus said | February 4th 2018 @ 7:39pm | ! Report

            Not suggesting they don’t have quality and can’t be dangerous, but there’s been a bit of a Scots love-in of late with comparisons to Ireland and England, which seems over-hyping to me.

            • February 4th 2018 @ 8:28pm
              Fionn said | February 4th 2018 @ 8:28pm | ! Report

              You can understand why we Aussie fans want to believe they’re as good as England and Ireland, however.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 12:39am
                FunBus said | February 5th 2018 @ 12:39am | ! Report

                I don’t think Aussies should dwell on that last game. Scotland are a different proposition at Murrayfield and thrive in the sort of game the Wallabies seek to create. International rugby is about match-ups. Wales can’t buy a win against the WBs.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 4:23am
                Taylorman said | February 5th 2018 @ 4:23am | ! Report

                Are they? Never noticed?

              • Roar Guru

                February 5th 2018 @ 7:55am
                Fionn said | February 5th 2018 @ 7:55am | ! Report

                The issue, FunBus, is the fact that it came right after the England Test, which saw a similar capitulation. And it continued the precedent we set in Bledisloe 1 and 2 (losing rom 17-0 up) when are defence was just so weak.

                We’d thought we’d improved as a result of not losing a match in 7 or so games, but the Spring Tour indicated all we had done is play one good match against the ABs in game 3, beaten a poor Argentinean side and drew twice with a South African side that was in crisis.

      • Roar Pro

        February 4th 2018 @ 10:24pm
        Colm said | February 4th 2018 @ 10:24pm | ! Report

        You were spot on, FunBus.
        I felt similarly about Scotland. They have an excellent backline, but with the exception of Watson, none of their forwards(injured or uninjured) would get into the English or Irish pack.
        Good luck against Italy today.

        • February 5th 2018 @ 12:43am
          FunBus said | February 5th 2018 @ 12:43am | ! Report

          Thanks, Colm. England rarely look good in Rome. I’ll settle for a win and the rust knocked off.

          Despite the fact the Irish will be disappointed with the performance, that’s a great first win, and the manner of it will set them up nicely for the rest of the tournament.

    • Roar Pro

      February 4th 2018 @ 9:48am
      Colm said | February 4th 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

      Thanks for the article, Oliver.
      Jeez, that was as disappointing a 78 minutes of rugby that I’ve seen from Ireland since Schmidt took over. It’s one thing to be losing to a team who are playing well(Scotland + Wales last year), it’s another thing to play like that against a poor French team missing a lot of their best players(Fofana, Picamoles, Parra, Lopez.)

      The coaching team seemed to learn nothing from the 2016 match in Paris. I’d love to know what the logic is in box-kicking/garryowens 25 meters from the opposition try line. Safety-first is always the option for this Ireland team. It’s very difficult to beat an opposition team 9-12 away from home. The best teams(England, New Zealand) kick for touch from penalties, when they are in the ascendancy.

      The positives from the match were Sexton, Leavy, Aki and James Ryan. The rest were well below par and some players are still making the same mistakes they made last year. Looking forward i’d have Scannell at 2, Leavy at 7, Conan at 8, Larmour/Stockdale at 15 and maybe Farrell at 13 over Henshaw.

      • February 4th 2018 @ 7:55pm
        FunBus said | February 4th 2018 @ 7:55pm | ! Report

        Big call to drop Henshaw.

        • Roar Pro

          February 4th 2018 @ 10:15pm
          Colm said | February 4th 2018 @ 10:15pm | ! Report

          Yeah Henshaw is not playing badly at the moment. I said maybe because I’m not sure who will be Ireland’s 15. If Larmour/Carberry/Stockdale start at 15, then it makes sense to play Henshaw at 13 for experience defensive solidity. Farrell is such an underrated player, though. He is 110kg, has a great step and has a slightly better passing game than Henshaw.

          • February 5th 2018 @ 12:44am
            FunBus said | February 5th 2018 @ 12:44am | ! Report

            When is Ringrose due back?

            • Roar Guru

              February 5th 2018 @ 3:09am
              Derm McCrum said | February 5th 2018 @ 3:09am | ! Report

              Round 4 earliest apparently. Same for SOB.

              I reckon Farrell or Scannell will get some game time next week.

              • February 5th 2018 @ 7:44am
                FunBus said | February 5th 2018 @ 7:44am | ! Report

                Bugger. I’d never want to see a player injured, but are you sure Ringrose and SOB wouldn’t like a longer break to prepare for the European Cup??

      • February 4th 2018 @ 11:10pm
        Cathal said | February 4th 2018 @ 11:10pm | ! Report

        Wrong infact England and NZ always take there points, the mindset there is you need to earn the right to go for the corner and that comes when you’re clear enough ahead, Ireland kept going for the corner the last time they went to Paris and they lost.

        • Roar Pro

          February 5th 2018 @ 12:47am
          Colm said | February 5th 2018 @ 12:47am | ! Report

          You have a valid argument with England, but New Zealand always play heads up rugby. Do you remember New Zealand’s first try in the Lions series. They were 3 -0 up and got a penalty. They took the quick tap and scored in the corner.

          I’m in favour of kicking to the post if you’re not getting front foot ball. Ireland were starting to get on top on two occasions, when they were three points up. They should have gone to the corner, imo.

    • February 4th 2018 @ 10:16am
      Dan54 said | February 4th 2018 @ 10:16am | ! Report

      Well after having watched both games this morning, first thought it was great to have it back. Then Wales/Scotland geez Welsh defence was great, first 15-20 minutes Scotland looked pretty good but couldn’t crack the Welsh defence, and you could almost see their belief in themselves start to fade. They seemed to attack and defend quite narrow, so never really bothered Wales after 20 minute mark. Wales were good,Wyn Jones is a master lock, and by geez I was a bit impressed with young Patchell at 10, looks a good boy.
      France /Ireland game was certainly a grind, not sure if it was just because of pitch, still Sexton showed how good he was throughout the game, and was probably fitting he slotted winning goal , he really was the man controlling the game for Ireland.
      So all in all one I thought pretty good game, and one that was a little bit of a grind, so good start and will only improve as players get used to being back together, and hope fully teams show a touch more individual skill in passing and catching.

      • February 4th 2018 @ 10:25am
        Cynical Play said | February 4th 2018 @ 10:25am | ! Report

        Wales were the goods. Complete game and thrashed a Scots team coming in with their tails up. It could easily have been 50 points had the other Welch try close-calls been given. Yes, the debutant Welsh 10 was excellent and outplayed the disappointing and error-ridden Russell who had no answer to the stifling Welch back-row.

        • February 4th 2018 @ 4:39pm
          Cuw said | February 4th 2018 @ 4:39pm | ! Report

          do u mean Patchell’s debut six nations?

          am sure he’s played for Wales before – and so has Anscombe.

          • February 4th 2018 @ 8:33pm
            Cynical Play said | February 4th 2018 @ 8:33pm | ! Report

            You’re right..

            Walesonline has said he had “been handed the coveted Wales No.10 jersey for the first time” and the commentators called him a debutant..

            https://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/rugby/rugby-news/wales-fly-half-rhys-patchell-14223444

            .. but Wiki says he actually played a game for Wales against Japan in 2013 though do not say what position

            BBC Sport say he “has been a replacement Wales fly-half and centre, and has also started two Tests at full-back” http://www.bbc.com/sport/rugby-union/41173939

            So… a Wales debutant at 10 maybe.

            Whatever… he looks a keeper.
            ..

            • Roar Guru

              February 4th 2018 @ 8:39pm
              Fionn said | February 4th 2018 @ 8:39pm | ! Report

              Yeah, Wales have pretty good depth in that position between Biggar, Priestland and this bloke.

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