Six Nations: After two rounds, who’s worth your money?

Tom English Roar Guru

By Tom English, Tom English is a Roar Guru

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    480 minutes after the start of the biggest annual rugby tournament, and we’re not much closer to knowing who will win it as we pause for a gap weekend.

    Let’s try to make head and tail of it.

    Ireland
    These guys started off with a post-siren win over France, getting the job done 15-13 over the Frenchmen in Paris.

    Against a team that has struggled of late, (winning only seven games in the last three tournaments) Ireland should’ve put France away or at least have done better than requiring an 83rd-minute drop kick to win.

    Against the perennial strugglers Italy – the last place in three of the last four tournaments – Ireland romped out to a 56-19 win. While this might sneak the Irish into first place (over England by two differential points), the men in green could’ve and possibly should’ve won by a bigger margin at home.

    The loss and ruling out of Robbie Henshaw with a shoulder injury, picked up when scoring, doesn’t put them in a good position heading into the next round.

    Grade: B+

    England
    Eddie Jones’s boys started the Six Nations off with a bang, quickly diminishing at Twickenham with only six points between them and a massive upset at home against Wales.

    Had Scott William’s early slide gone differently, or even Gareth Anscombe’s incorrect TMO encounter, the Welsh Dragons might well have won and England might be one from two with only a win over Italy to show for it.

    However, France and Italy are easier opponents then Italy and Wales, but 60 minutes without scoring will hurt.

    Grade: A-

    Wales
    The men in crimson started off with a huge win over Scotland that frankly no-one saw coming.

    34-7 is always a pretty convincing scoreline, and Saturday was no different, with a four tries to one win over the team that was in the top five midway through last year.

    Against England at Twickenham was always going to be tough, to say the least, and 12-6 won’t be too displeasing for Warren Gatland.

    Considering that England were held to no score in the last hour of the game, Wales should well have scored at least once.

    They won’t blame themselves for that though, with an admittedly wrong TMO decision.

    Grade: B

    Scotland
    Who would’ve thought that a team who in 2017 were so dominant over teams such as Wales would lose by 27 in the opening game of the year?

    Gregor Townsend won’t be too happy with either of the first pair of games, with a big loss and then a hard-fought win over France.

    WP Nel and Zander Fagerson will return against England however, with Fraser Brown set to make a comeback in Round 4.

    Finn Russell for Scotland

    (Photo: AFP)

    Grade: B-

    France
    Where do you start?

    Two losses, neither of them big ones, but with England, Wales and Italy to go, new coach Jacques Brunel shouldn’t be too happy.

    Neither opponent was miles above, but with two of the more winnable games passed, France look destined for another middle-of-the-road finish at best.

    Ireland shouldn’t have won against Guy Noves’ team – nor should’ve Scotland really.

    Grade: C

    Italy
    “This is a monumental moment in our game. For the first time ever, a non-western European side will play in the Six Nations. Presenting…Georgia!”

    Just kidding, that’ll never happen. Lucky for Italy it won’t because the Georgians have shown they can compete with top tier sides.

    Being asked to train against England is the ultimate compliment, and competing for 78 minutes against Wales in Cardiff shows the team is growing game-by-game.

    Maybe I’m off track.

    Let’s be honest, the Italians have struggled, and while a pair of 20 minute try-scoring bursts towards the ends of games have shown flair and skill, it’ll never compare with Soso Matiashvili’s incredible effort versus Canada.

    Grade: D+.

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    The Crowd Says (26)

    • Roar Guru

      February 21st 2018 @ 11:32am
      Ralph said | February 21st 2018 @ 11:32am | ! Report

      I guess there are (at least) two ways we can spin the Wales/England match:

      (a) Great teams find a way to win on a bad day, (Kudos England) -or-

      (b) Couldn’t put it away without a bad call, look like pretenders, (Hard done-by Wales).

      Pick your flavour of spin.

    • February 21st 2018 @ 11:47am
      Tom English said | February 21st 2018 @ 11:47am | ! Report

      Concur, depends which team you support really.

    • February 21st 2018 @ 1:08pm
      Perthstayer said | February 21st 2018 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

      It was NOT A TRY!!!

      The touch down argument is immaterial.

      Williams knocked it on before. His finger touches the ball.

      The TMO failure was actually justice for England as the Williams knock on was not being questioned.

      • February 21st 2018 @ 3:49pm
        cantab said | February 21st 2018 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

        .

      • February 21st 2018 @ 10:41pm
        HenryHoneyBalls said | February 21st 2018 @ 10:41pm | ! Report

        Disagree. The ball may have touched the finger but it was so marginal that you would never expect a TMO to see that as it required a super slow mo video to see it. In any case it is very unlikely that with that level of contact the ball would have gone forward from his finger and its almost impossible to tell from the video however, it definitely did go forward from his knee.

        The TMO got it badly wrong. He said that Watson grounded the ball first which is clearly incorrect. I think a try should have been awarded as the touch down from Anscome was clear and obvious whereas the knock on was not.

    • Roar Guru

      February 21st 2018 @ 1:53pm
      The Neutral View From Sweden said | February 21st 2018 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

      Thanks for this TE.

      I think your grades a very fair, so kudos for that.

      But there are a couple of statements I have to question:

      Ireland should’ve put France away or at least have done better than requiring an 83rd-minute drop kick to win.
      Winning in France have never come easy for Ireland. I believe they have won there three times since 1972, so I am pretty sure the Irish take anything they can get. And on a rainy night against a French team that cared, it is not that easy to get a result.

      The loss and ruling out of Robbie Henshaw with a shoulder injury, picked up when scoring, doesn’t put them in a good position heading into the next round.
      Garry Ringrose is back, so I think they will do alright without Henshaw.

      Had Scott William’s early slide gone differently, or even Gareth Anscombe’s incorrect TMO encounter, the Welsh Dragons might well have won and England might be one from two with only a win over Italy to show for it
      If the TMO had given it, it would at best have been 12-10 to England. But to use a call from the first quarter of the game as game-deciding is a stretch. We have no idea how it would have played out.

      They won’t blame themselves for that though, with an admittedly wrong TMO decision.
      They should blame themselves. I am surprised that Wales get so much love when they did not score a try. If you only manage to score six points, you are always gonna end up losing in Test rugby.

      Who would’ve thought that a team who in 2017 were so dominant over teams such as Wales would lose by 27 in the opening game of the year?
      Warren Gatland said he thought so… 😉

      Ireland shouldn’t have won against Guy Noves’ team – nor should’ve Scotland really.
      Really? Both scores were pretty expected, hence France has not exactly been world beaters lately.

      Being asked to train against England is the ultimate compliment, and competing for 78 minutes against Wales in Cardiff shows the team is growing game-by-game.
      Georgia will play Italy in November. Let us wait until then before we put them above Italy maybe? But I would love if the 6N expanded a little and became a more open European Championship, closed shop for the Old Boys is not a good idea long term if rugby strives to become a truly global game.

      • February 21st 2018 @ 5:59pm
        Tom English said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:59pm | ! Report

        I love constructive criticism 🙂
        First things first: this France side is mediocre at best. I don’t know why Ireland have struggled so much inFrance over the last well ages….Really though, I dunno why France let them get away with it at the end after the way Ireland were playing.

        Tbh i wrote mentioned Henshaw before the news came thru about Ringrose im pretty sure. Soz for that.

        If Scott Williams hadn’t gone for that pathetic early dive, and if the TMO had gotten it right- i wasnt sure about it myself, but WR said…

        “If you only manage to score 6 points you are always going to lose”…… 2014- Wallabies 6-0 France 😛

        • Roar Guru

          February 21st 2018 @ 6:39pm
          The Neutral View From Sweden said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:39pm | ! Report

          Liking this TE

          Nothing better than having a little banter, with a cheeky smile, spiced up with some knowledge.

          The France-Ireland Test was a bit peculiar. Sometimes it looks like Schmidt dresses his tactics in both braces and straps and thereby make them a bit impotent. And as we all know; you can’t fake the funk. I hope Ireland will be a little more adventurous this weekend against Wales, and not bank on that Sexton gonna bail them out again.

          Fair play if you did not know about Ringrose. I think GR can be the tonic the Irish attack needs. With Aki and Henshaw it is all out crash and bash. GR brings more slick silk and X-factor.

          I have been lured into a couple ref-debates lately, and I hate myself every time it happens. Rugby is probably the hardest game there is to ref, and when rugby tragics like us can’t even agree on what we see after watching hundreds of replays in slo-mo, how can we not give the refs some slack? Gonna try to go back to my philosophical approach again; the ref is an X-factor and he gives and takes just like life gives and takes.

          6-0 indeed. I had repressed that Test

          • February 21st 2018 @ 10:48pm
            HenryHoneyBalls said | February 21st 2018 @ 10:48pm | ! Report

            I don’t think Ringrose will start v Wales. It is too soon for him. Id say he will be picked for Leinster for Friday nights game v the Southern Kings. I expect Chris Farrell to be selected instead. Farrell looked decent in November v Fiji.

            Ringrose should start v Scotland and England though as he looks in great shape.

            • Roar Guru

              February 22nd 2018 @ 12:28am
              Derm McCrum said | February 22nd 2018 @ 12:28am | ! Report

              Yep. Henshaw, Luke McGrath out, and it looks like Ringrose, Furlong and possibly Henderson may not be available either for Wales test. Likely 23 to be:

              McGrath, Best, Porter, Toner, Ryan, O’Mahony, Leavy, Stander
              Murray, Sexton, Stockdale, Aki, Farrell, Earls, Kearney.
              Cronin, Healy, Ryan, Roux, Murphy, Marmion, Carbery, Conway.

              • Roar Guru

                February 22nd 2018 @ 12:44am
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | February 22nd 2018 @ 12:44am | ! Report

                Irelands depth will be truly tested if this is correct PA.
                Feels almost like a make or break for Ireland’s short-term ambitions to be a top three nation.

              • Roar Guru

                February 25th 2018 @ 4:40am
                Derm McCrum said | February 25th 2018 @ 4:40am | ! Report

                They won 37-27.

              • Roar Guru

                February 22nd 2018 @ 12:59am
                Harry Jones said | February 22nd 2018 @ 12:59am | ! Report

                The Irish have more Saffas so they will win

              • Roar Guru

                February 22nd 2018 @ 1:04am
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | February 22nd 2018 @ 1:04am | ! Report

                They don’t like Saffas in Wales, or is the other way around?

              • Roar Guru

                February 22nd 2018 @ 1:36am
                Harry Jones said | February 22nd 2018 @ 1:36am | ! Report

                Saffas started going to Ireland when Gert Smal was coaching there, I think.

              • February 22nd 2018 @ 1:46am
                HenryHoneyBalls said | February 22nd 2018 @ 1:46am | ! Report

                CJ Stander is the only regular South African for Ireland. Quinn Roux and Rob Herring are both a bit down the pecking order and rarely make the bench. On average you might see 1 South African per match day squad for Ireland max.

              • Roar Guru

                February 22nd 2018 @ 2:05am
                Harry Jones said | February 22nd 2018 @ 2:05am | ! Report

                HenryHoneyBalls

                I see that 25% of Scotland’s starting pack is Saffa.

                WP Nel and Josh Strauss

              • Roar Guru

                February 22nd 2018 @ 2:10am
                Harry Jones said | February 22nd 2018 @ 2:10am | ! Report

                Correction

                0%

              • Roar Guru

                February 22nd 2018 @ 2:10am
                Harry Jones said | February 22nd 2018 @ 2:10am | ! Report

                David Denton = Zim-Saffa

                WP Nel = bench

              • Roar Guru

                February 22nd 2018 @ 3:01am
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | February 22nd 2018 @ 3:01am | ! Report

                Gonna be good to see WP Nel again. Even a scrum-imbecile like me can see that he is good when packing down (and if I see someone making a difference in the scrum that probably means they are world class).

          • February 22nd 2018 @ 5:58pm
            Tom English said | February 22nd 2018 @ 5:58pm | ! Report

            It was a bit of a strange test. I expected more of Ireland i can tell you now. Schmidt never has convinced me entirely as a coach- i would suggest unless Ireland have an exceptionally good year he probably should be replaced.

            Only making it through to the quarters of the world cup was an underachievement.
            Anyone who has watched any Ireland game over the last few years,
            or even seen any Irish rugby meme ever, would know Ireland aren’t adventurous, and can’t provide much more than crash and bash as you put it.

            Refs: as a Minis ref myself, it is HARD, hard and harder.
            Simply keeping up with the game is hard enough.
            The game is much faster than a person might think, even at a minis level.

            That test hardly jumps to the forefront of the memory.
            No French fan would want to remember a loss as such, nor would an Aussie wanna remember a win that defies the running rugby stereotype we like to have in Australia.
            I dunno about about neutrals from Sweden, but I can understand it passing by the immediate memory

    • February 21st 2018 @ 9:45pm
      codename_karla said | February 21st 2018 @ 9:45pm | ! Report

      I think this is a pretty fair analysis overall. It’s very difficult to judge what a win over France and Scotland is really worth this season. Scotland absolutely capitulated to Wales which very few people expected and France haven’t capitulated in either match which more or less everybody quietly expected, based on perceived poor discipline and lack of fitness. Poor discipline and lack of fitness have definitely been problems, but not to the extent we might have thought.

      My pre-tournament predictions were:
      England
      Ireland (although secretly wanted to back them for a GS)
      Wales
      Scotland
      France
      Italy

      So far, things are looking pretty bang on.

      What I really disagree with is the Georgia coming in to the 6N stuff which I’ve been seeing a lot of. Georgia competed against Wales for 78 mins. True. But that is their only Tier 1 match of the season. It is the single most important fixture in their calendar. Italy play 8-10 Tier 1 sides every year. They get shellacked because they can’t keep their powder dry for any one game. If Georgia had to do that schedule they’d be whipping boys too.

      The WR rankings are very deceptive on that score because Italy lose to higher ranked sides and Georgia beat lower ranked sides. The rankings can’t really make sense of that, hence Georgia’s better ranking relative to Italy.

      Finally, Italy’s domestic structures are getting much much better. Benetton have a positive winning record for the first time ever in the Pro14 and are in a play off spot. Zebre have beaten Ulster and Dragons. The Italy U20s have shown real promise and made life difficult for England and Ireland. In the latter case playing with 14 men for about 70 minutes. The senior side sucks just now, but the future is (hopefully) bright.

    • Roar Guru

      February 22nd 2018 @ 1:48am
      The Neutral View From Sweden said | February 22nd 2018 @ 1:48am | ! Report

      Scotland team against England: Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Peter Horne (all Glasgow), Sean Maitland (Saracens), Finn Russell (Glasgow), Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne); Gordon Reid (London Irish), Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist (all Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Glasgow), John Barclay (Scarlets, capt), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow).

      Replacements: Scott Lawson (Newcastle), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow), Willem Nel (Edinburgh), Tim Swinson (Glasgow), Dave Denton (Worcester), Ali Price, Nick Grigg (both Glasgow), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh).

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