The 2nd weekend of the 2014 6 Nations weekend is one that most Welsh rugby fans would prefer to forget. Wales got thrashed by Ireland in Dublin, going down 26-3 in what Andy Howell of The Western Mail described as
…the worst Welsh performance the paucity and ineptitude of which left you almost lost for words.
Ireland v Wales
Everybody was expecting this to be a close game, but nothing could be further from the truth. Wales were routed by a rampant Ireland. Wales’ coach Warren Gatland described it as one of the worst displays by his team since he became coach in December 2007. Certainly I cannot think of a worse display under his tenure. Wales did nothing, we were completely outplayed in every aspect of the game, and it is difficult to believe that this is the same group of players who thrashed England 30-3 in Cardiff last March.
Ireland, for their part, were everything Wales were not. They completely negated Wales’ game plan, and their forwards squeezed the life out of the Welsh pack. They dominated every aspect of play, including crucially the breakdown where Ireland’s flanker Peter O’Mahoney and his fellow back row forwards Chris Henry and Jamie Heaslip did a number on Wales and Lions’ backrow Dan Lydiate, Taulupe Faletau and Sam Warburton.
Ireland didn’t try to create anything in the backs, they didn’t need to. Jonathan Sexton just kicked for the corners, and the dominant Irish lineout caught it and mauled their way towards the Welsh tryline. Either Wales infringed, resulting in an Irish penalty and 3 points, or they got to the try line (which they did twice).
Scotland v England
England beat Scotland 20-0 in Edinburgh in one of the most boring games of rugby I have seen in a long time. It was so bad I fell asleep. Scotland never looked like stopping England, and England never looked like doing anything interesting, but were certainly impressive in what they did do. It puts their 6 Nations campaign back on track after their defeat to France in Paris last week.
I was tipping England to be the most likely 2014 Championships winners before the start of the tournament, and I am currently sticking to that prediction. Fascinatingly, England’s next game is in a fortnight at home to Ireland, a game which could become the Title decider.
France v Italy
France beat Italy comfortably 30-10. The first half was quite close, with France going into the break 9-3, but in the 2nd half they scored three good tries and eventually won comfortably. It leaves France with 2 wins from 2, the same as Ireland, and England and Wales both with 1 win from 2.
The 6 Nations now takes a break with the next round of matches in two weeks rather than next weekend. Wales play France in Cardiff on Friday night in a match which will determine the fate of Wales’ 2014 campaign. If they lose they will be facing mid-table mediocrity and leave France on course for a Grand Slam. But, should they manage to turn things around from their drubbing in Dublin, then they will still be in with a slim chance of retaining their 6 Nations crown.
Italy against Scotland is the second match of the weekend, and this will be a scrap to avoid the wooden spoon. But the most fascinating match of the 3rd round will be the showdown in Twickenham between England and Ireland later on Saturday. As I said above, this may well be the title decider. After Ireland’s impressive demolition of Wales, I think they will go into this game full of confidence, but I am tipping England to win this game, just.