WHO would have predicted the opening weekend of this Six Nations champions?
The only match to run to form was Italy’s destruction at the hands of a resurgent French team with World-Class ‘little General’ Antione Dupont. France were Italy’s ‘Vesuvius’ as the Azzurri became overwhelmed by the force of Les Bleus power with the final score 10-50.
The Italian fortunes faired poorly against England in Round Two, with Eddie Jones’s men running out 41-18 winners.
England found some form against the Azzurri following a surprising defeat at the hands of Scotland at Twickenham. This was the 150th anniversary of their first encounter and in a thrilling match, the sublime Stuart Hogg inspired his tartan army with a man-of-the-match display which resulted in a Scotland win at HQ for the first time in 38 years, after their last victory in 1983. The first half saw two penalties to England and a try by Scottish power-house winger Duhan van der Merwe. The South African-born winger was a menace on the wing as England lacked passion, ideas and structure. The lack of game-time with a large Saracens contingent in the side was evident as England were totally dominated by a resurgent Scottish side.
With two games now under their belt, we should see an improved England this weekend as they take on the a Welsh side who have had two-wins-from-two, which was just as much surprise as England’s loss in the Calcutta Cup.
Wales opened their Six Nations campaign with a close encounter against Ireland. This start by Wales was reminscent of their 2005 Grand Slam run which no-one expected. Wales have been woeful over the last 12 months with serious questions being asked of their coaching team. Head coach Wayne Pivac has come under-fire along with his backs coach and former Wales outside-half Stephen Jones. They seem to have taken a Grand Slam-winning team to wooden spoon-potentials in a very short time. The defence has been poor, the back play clueless and lineouts, which have done more harm than good, and are an embarrassment. Opposing teams now know they only need to play for possession and kick down to the Welsh 22 line and there’s a good chance Wales will lose the lineout and possession can be regained.
Wales were very lucky to win 21-16 with the only shining-light being the tries from ‘that young man Louis Rees-Zammit’ and a resurgent George North, against a 14-man Ireland after Peter O’Mahony was sent off early in the match for an illegal charge on the Wales prop Wyn Jones.
History repeated itself a week later with a surpise win over Scotland at Murrayfield which again saw a red card for Scottish prop forward Zander Fagerson and again the men-in-red playing against 14 men. Two sublime tries for wonder-kid Zammit saved Welsh blushes and they now have the momentum going into this weekend’s game against England at the Principality Stadium. Both sides have much to prove and improve upon. Despite two wins, Wales a very poor. A win for them will only paper over the cracks and probably save Wayne Pivacs job, but unless England are reduced to 14 men, I can’t see the Welsh over-coming an England side with much to prove.
Ireland are now two losses in two matches but are up against Italy so should win with ease. Andy Farrell’s men need a confidence boost to get their championship back on track. Sadly it looks like the France v Scotland match will be called off with 10 of the French team being hit with Coronavirus.