Going in to the 3rd weekend of the 2016 6 Nations there were three unbeaten countries – England, France and Wales. With Wales beating France on Friday, and England beating Ireland on Saturday, the scene is now set for a showdown between England and Wales in the fourth round in a fortnight.
Wales v France
This match was the first of the weekend, being played on Friday evening in Cardiff. I am currently in Namibia (Southern Africa), but there was no problem finding a place to watch the match as all the 6 Nations games are being shown on a South African sports channel here. I watched the Wales v France game in a restaurant, but I have to say I found the contents of my plate far more interesting than the first half of this match.
Wales went in to half-time 6-3 ahead in a dour first half. Thankfully the second half was slightly better; Wales quickly opened up a 19-3 lead thanks to a try by George North and a conversion and two penalties by Dan Biggar. However, the highlight of the second half for me was the wonderful defence that Wales showed in keeping France out during a 15-or-so minute siege of their try line.
France did get a consolation try when the game was all but over, to leave the final score 19-10. This scoreline gives a slightly false impression of the game; a game in which France created nothing and looked even worse than a lacklustre Wales. Wales have now beaten France five times in a row, the last time we lost to them was the semi-final of the 2011 World Cup in November 2011. Additionally, Wales have now gone undefeated in seven straight 6 Nations matches; our last defeat was to England in Cardiff in the opening match of the 2015 6 Nations.
Italy v Scotland
I saw nothing of this game, but I am pleased to see that Scotland halted their abysmal run of 6 Nations defeats by finally registering a win, beating Italy 36-20 in Rome. They showed such promise in the World Cup, and I really hope they can use this win to start winning some 6 Nations matches and playing as well as they did in last year’s World Cup. The 6 Nations is better when playing against Scotland are not a guaranteed win, as it seems to have been for almost all the other countries for the last several years.
England v Ireland
I did not watch this match, but I followed it on the internet. England had a narrow 6-3 lead at half-time, and went down 10-6 through a try by Ireland scrum half Connor Murray. From what I read, in a short 10-minute period in the second half they scored two tries and went from 6-10 down to a 21-10 lead, which they never relinquished, despite having 2 players sin-binned. So far, they are the team that have most impressed me in this 6 Nations, they have found a new lease of life under the new coach Eddie Jones.
The fourth round of 6 Nations matches in a fortnight’s time, and the big match is England v Wales in Twickenham on the 12th. Thankfully I will be back from my travelling for that match, so far I have been away for all three rounds. This game is massive for both sides. For Wales it is, of course, a chance to not only defeat the old enemy, but to win two matches in a row at Twickenham for the first time since the 1970s, and to scupper England’s chance of a Grand Slam and to leave us with the strongest chance of winning the Championships ourselves (with only Italy at home remaining).
For England, it is an opportunity to put the nightmare of their defeat by Wales and their exit from the World Cup behind them. There is absolutely no doubt that both sides will look upon it as the biggest match of the 6 Nations, and I expect a very fiery encounter. if Wales are to stand any chance of winning they will certainly have to play better than they have so far done in this 6 Nations. But, a sign of a good team is when they win and don’t play particularly well in doing so. I think this is true of this Wales team. We shall see in Twickenham!