With last week removing fans from any Six Nations action on Saturday and Sunday, it gives us time to look at the opening two rounds and get to grips with it.
It’s been a great start for Ireland and Wales after suffering a disastrous opening, but does that really reflect where they are?
Likewise, France may currently be fourth in the table, but their schedule gets easier from now on after their defeat against Ireland.
Andy Farrell’s men are unstoppable at the moment, and they deserve to live at the summit after impressive wins over Wales and France at the start of this tournament. After previous struggles in World Cup years – 2019 being the perfect example – this team of players looks very different. In the opening 40 minutes they had against Wales, they managed to get to the bottom and they kept that intensity and physicality in the second game with France. In what could have been a final they came out with a stunning victory, paving the way for a Grand Slam. Although Scotland have a tough tie at Murrayfield, we are backing them to win their remaining games.
They may have suffered an unexpected opening against Italy – escaping with a 29-24 win in Rome – but we felt the French did enough in the win against Ireland to keep themselves in the upper echelons of the European game. Les Bleus were fully involved in one of the big Six Nations games, despite failing to get over the line. They were much more disciplined, a threat with the ball and solid in the set pieces. Fabien Galthie’s men still need to improve in some areas ahead of their home Rugby World Cup, but they are not far from putting it right.
Gregor Townsend’s outfit appear to have made great strides as they look back on their impressive wins over England and Wales. Half-back Finn Russell has produced many moments of magic and in Duhan van der Merwe, the competition has the most dangerous full-back. Combine that with a pack that is solid in scrum and lineout, as well as being a nuisance at the breakdown, and you have the makings of a very good team. There are still some areas of concern, and they are yet to face France or Ireland, but the Scots are on the rise.
The equator is always the main idea when it comes to this side of the Red Rose, but they seem to have developed in a few aspects. The ball was impressive against Italy and they looked more defensive, while there were impressive performances from Jack Willis and Ollie Lawrence, but the phrase ‘it was only Italy’ comes to mind. The Azzurri are an improving team, but the last two games against France and Ireland will show where England really stand. New head coach Steve Borthwick still has some questions to ponder.
It has been a disaster so far for Warren Gatland when he returned to Wales with them bottom of the table after heavy defeats to Ireland and Scotland. However, we’re not convinced we can put them below Italy just yet, especially when you consider the overall quality of the respective sides. Last week gives Gatland an opportunity to find out what they have to do to right the wrongs done in the previous two games. As a result, wins over England and the Azzurri are realistic targets for the Brits in their next games, although we think they will ultimately not do enough to finish above fifth. Rumors of a player strike ahead of the England game add to their woes and is another issue to contend with, but the Italians need to do more on the pitch to overcome Wales.
There is no doubt that they are a competitive side, at least in the Six Nations today. Their Autumn League of Nations campaign was a big step forward, and they followed that up with a superb display against France, but the performance at Twickenham on Sunday was disappointing. However, there was plenty in the second-half display to suggest that Kieran Crowley can take at least one win from their last three games. The home game with Wales certainly presents the best chance, but they will need to improve on a few things for that to happen, regardless of the problems the Brits are facing at the moment. Italy’s flat defense was poor against England and their exit strategy is still a big question, so until they get sorted, Crowley’s side won’t be winning many games.
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