The first weekend of the 2014 6 Nations is over, and I would say 4 countries still have realistic hopes of winning the Championships.
Wales v Italy
Wales beat Italy 23-15 in what was an uninspiring performance. Wales scored two tries in the first half (thanks to winger Alex Cuthbert and centre Scott Williams), and went into half time with the score at 17-3. But Italy got the better of the 2nd half, and scored two tries of their own. The final score was, I think, a reasonable reflection of the game. Wales never looked like losing, but neither did they ever look like running away with it either. There didn’t seem to be much spark to the Wales team, and they made too many mistakes.
Wales notoriously start the 6 Nations badly. Since winning the Grand Slam in 2008, the only year Wales have won their opening match is in 2012, when we also won the Grand Slam. Certainly Wales will need to pick up their level of performance considerably to stand a chance of winning in Dublin next weekend, and we can probably be grateful that it was Italy we were playing on Saturday, and not one of the stronger countries.
France v England
With an expected win for Wales in Cardiff, this was the game that I was most looking forward to this opening weekend, and it did not disappoint. It was a scintillating match. France scored a try within the first minute, and went into half time with a comfortable lead of 16-8. But, England fought their way back and with just minutes to go were 24-19 ahead. Then, out of nowhere, France scored a stunning try which they converted to win 26-24. It was heartbreaking for England, who certainly looked the better team for much of the game.
The intensity of the match was well above the intensity of the game in Cardiff, and both sides can be pleased with the way they played. England will go to Edinburgh next weekend, and have to win to get their 6 Nations campaign back on track. France have the probably easier prospect of Italy at home in the Stade de France.
Ireland v Scotland
The final game of the opening weekend of the 2014 6 Nations was Ireland v Scotland. Ireland went into half time with a 11-3 lead, thanks to a try scored right on 40 minutes. Scotland had most of the possession and territory in the 1st half, but were unable to convert their pressure into points. In the 2nd half Ireland turned the tables and dominated, and eventually ran out comfortable winners 28-6.
Ireland were impressive in their victory, and I would say along with England and France gave the most impressive performance of the opening weekend. They looked comfortable and in control in all aspects of the game, and Wales will certainly need to play a lot better than they did on Saturday to come away from Dublin with a win next weekend.