The first weekend of the 2015 6 Nations is over, and obviously for me as a Welshman it was hugely disappointing to see Wales lose to England on Friday evening. But, apart from that game which Wales were expected to win, I don’t think there were any other surprises. Defending champions Ireland beat Italy comfortably in Rome, and France beat Scotland at home in Paris, despite a greatly improved performance by the Scots.
Wales v England
The opening match of the 2015 6 Nations was the hugely anticipated Friday evening clash between Wales and England. Wales v England is always a huge match for the Welsh, but with the two countries being drawn in the same group for this year’s World Cup, this match had an extra edge to it. Tension had been building all week in Wales, and on Friday evening just before the match the anticipation of the encounter was palpable.
Wales went into the match as favourites, partly due to the 30-3 drubbing they inflicted on England the last time the Red rose came to Cardiff, and partly because of the huge injury list that Stuart Lancaster was facing. But, despite a dream start of being 10-8 within the first eight minutes, and being up 16-8 at half time, in the second half England just upped their game and sucked the life out of the Welsh team, particularly up front. As every rugby fan knows, matches are won by the forwards, and particularly the front five. In the second half the English pack totally dominated the Welsh pack, out muscling them in every aspect of play.
This match wasn’t even close. Although the final score of 21-16 suggests that it could have gone either way, once England had scored a converted try just a few minutes into the second half,to bring the score back to 16-15, I personally had no confidence that Wales could maintain their lead and win. In contrast to the matches between Wales and both Australia and New Zealand in the autumn, where Wales were competitive until well past 70 minutes, even by early in the 2nd half it seemed obvious to me that England had the better of Wales, largely due to their total dominance up front. I have not seem the Welsh pack being out-muscled in this fashion in a long time, and theories are aplenty in Wales as to why this might be.
England could and should have scored two more tries, which had they been converted would have meant a final score of 35-16, which to me would have been more reflective of England’s dominance. Wales were just not good enough, completely and utterly outplayed by England in the second half, or really after the first twenty minutes. It was a much larger margin of defeat for Wales than last year’s game in Twickenham, despite the scoreline being closer.
Italy v Ireland
I watched the first half of this match, which ended 9-3 to Ireland, but it was so uninteresting that I didn’t bother watching the second half. Typical of my luck that the game should improve considerably, with Ireland ending up comfortable winners 26 to 3. Ireland are not only the reigning 6 Nations champions, but after beating both South Africa and Australia in their autumn test series, they are many peoples’ favourites to retain their title. Wales will play Ireland at home, in their 4th match of the 6 Nations, and that match could be the match which decides whether Ireland do indeed retain their title.
France v Scotland
Scotland yet again came up short in Paris, it has now been far too many years since they won there. But, it was a greatly improved performance by Scotland, and they certainly won’t be a push-over for Wales next Sunday up in Edinburgh. They scored the only try of the match, and are developing under the new coach into a side which in a year or two will no longer be the pushover they’ve been the last several years.
The opening match of the 2nd weekend of the 6 Nations will be England against Italy at Twickenham. This should be an easy win for England, and when a team has won 2 from 2 in the 6 Nations they become very difficult to beat as confidence builds. Later on Saturday is Ireland v France in Dublin, and with Ireland’s current form I think they will win reasonably comfortably. The final match of the weekend will be Scotland v Wales on the Sunday in Edinburgh. I think Wales will win as I think we will just be too strong for Scotland, but should we lose and the Wales 2015 6 Nations would have every chance of becoming a disaster with two losses from two.