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Posts Tagged ‘RBS 6 Nations’

Tonight (Friday 10th March), Wales take on Ireland in Cardiff in the 2017 6 Nations clash. It is the first match of the penultimate weekend of this year’s 6 Nations, and a Friday evening clash in Cardiff usually has a special atmosphere. Wales have lost two matches from three, with their heavy defeat at Murrayfield two weekends ago still being picked over by the rugby media and pundits in Wales. This means that we are out of contention for this year’s 6 Nations title, but there is more than pride at stake.

The 2019 World Cup draw will be made in the next few months, and if Wales do not win at least one of their remaining two matches in the 6 Nations they risk dropping out of the top 8 in the World rankings. This means that they will be drawn in the same group as two higher ranked teams, with one team from the top 4 and the second team from 5-8. This was the situation we faced in the 2015 World Cup, being drawn in the same group as Australia and England.

This has left Welsh interim-coach Rob Howley with a difficult decision to make. There have been calls for him to try starting players like Sam Davies at outside half, with the 6 Nations title now out of reach. But, we cannot afford to lose either of our two remaining matches because of the World Cup draw. So, despite most people in Wales calling for some changes to the starting 15, Howley has decided to keep exactly the same 23 as he did against Scotland, with the same starting 15 too.

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Wales take on Ireland this evening in Cardiff. Wales will be looking to salvage a very poor 2017 6 Nations campaign.

Ireland, on the other hand, are still in with a chance of the 6 Nations title. Win in Cardiff tonight and it will come down to a probable title-decider against England at home in Dublin on Saturday the 18th. Based on their performances in their 3 matches so far, I think Ireland will be too good for Wales. Of course I want to see a Wales victory, but unfortunately I think Ireland are going to win. Whoever wins, it should be a very exciting match.

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The 3rd weekend of the 2017 6 Nations saw home victories in all three matches. Scotland beat Wales at Murrayfield, Ireland beat France in Dublin, and England beat Italy at Twickenham.

Scotland v Wales

Scotland beat Wales for the first time since 2007, with a well-deserved win that saw them score 20 unanswered points in the 2nd half. Wales went into half-time with a slim 13-9 lead. It could have been more, with Wales missing a chance to go 16-6 up with only a few minutes left of the first half. Instead, Scotland scored a penalty just before half-time and instead of 16-6 it was 13-9.

If ever there was a game of two halves this was it. The second half saw Scotland score 20 unanswered points, including two well deserved tries. It is true that Wales did have their chances to score points in the 2nd half, but Scotland were by far the better team after the break and fully deserved their victory over a largely ineffective Welsh team.

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Scotland beat Wales 29-13 in a well-deserved victory, their first win over Wales since 2007.

Whereas the Scottish team took their chances, Wales were unable to come away with points when they were in the Scottish 22. It was a poor performance by Wales, but also a very good one by Scotland. After being uncompetitive for most of the last 10 years, it is good to see Scotland back mixing it with the other countries in the 6 Nations.

Ireland v France

This was a cracker of a match. For a neutral, it had everything. Ireland went into half-time with a narrow 7-6 lead, and it was not clear well into the second half who was going to win this keenly contested match. In the end the better play of Irish half-backs Connor Murray and Johnny Sexton proved decisive, Ireland emerging victorious 19-9. With first Ireland, and then France, being the last two sides that Wales will face, the performance of both teams in this match does not bode well for Wales’ chances of winning either match, in my opinion.

England v Italy

I have not seen this match, but am looking forward to seeing the highlights, mainly for the tactics which Italy adopted. By not committing any men to the breakdown, they avoided any rucks forming and thus the off-side line which normally exists did not apply. This allowed them to have men standing between the English backs, completely disrupting the game that England hoped to play. In fact, so effective was this tactic that Italy were 10-5 ahead at half-time. It is, apparently, only in the second half that England got to grips with this novel tactic, and eventually ran away to win 36-15.

The 4th weekend

The 6 Nations now has another brief hiatus, before the next round of matches in just under two weeks. Ireland come to Cardiff to play Wales on Friday evening (10th March), then on the Saturday Italy take on France before the big game of the weekend, England v Scotland. Not only is this for the Calcutta Cup, but both countries are going for the Triple Crown. It will  be the first time in probably some 20 years that Scotland will go to Twickenham with even the slightest hope of winning.

Based on our performance against Scotland, I cannot see Wales beating Ireland, which leaves us with the real possibility of finishing the 2017 6 Nations with only one win. Quite where this will leave the Welsh team and management is a good question,  but it is clear from our performances this season that Wales have not developed the creativity in attack which is needed to win matches. Scotland showed us how it should be done; all we could do was look on and marvel at how much they have developed and how much we have regressed.

 

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This weekend sees the 2017 6 Nations come out of its hiatus for the 3rd weekend of matches. The weekend kicks off with Scotland v Wales at Murrayfield, followed by Ireland v France in Dublin, and Sunday sees England v Italy at Twickenham. It is an important weekend in the Championships, particularly for Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France. Win this weekend and their records will be 2 wins from 3, but lose and it will be 1 win from 3, a big difference.

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This weekend is an important one in the 2017 6 Nations. For Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France it will make the difference between being 2 wins from 3 or 1 win from 3.

Scotland v Wales

Wales go to Murrayfield having not lost to Scotland since 2007, either home or away. George North comes back into the team that lost to England, after injury kept him out of that game. Otherwise the Welsh team is unchanged, with perhaps the biggest surprise being that Ross Moriarty keeps his starting position, forcing Taulupe Faletau to start on the bench. Given how well Moriarty played against England I think it is the correct call by Rob Howley.

This will be the sternest test Wales have had against Scotland in the last 10 years, and they will need to be at their best to beat a resurgent Scotland. It will be a fascinating encounter, and I am going to be on the edge of my seat watching it.

Ireland v France

Ireland will be wanting to continue getting their 2017 campaign back on track after their opening loss to Scotland. They beat Italy easily in the 2nd weekend of matches, so if they can beat France their campaign to win the 2017 Championship will still be possible. Lose and they can forget about being crowned champions. France too will be wanting to make it 2 wins from 3, and an away win against Ireland would be a scalp to bolster their confidence of being in contention for the Championship title come the final weekend.

England v Italy

Sunday’s game seems England play Italy at home. This should be a rout, it is really just a question of how many points England can put on Italy. There has been a lot of debate this Championships as to whether Italy deserve to be part of the 6 Nations, and this match will probably do nothing to quell that debate. I expect a cricket score of 60+ points for England.

 

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The second weekend of the 2017 6 Nations is over, and I think it is fair to say that this year is on course to be one of the most exciting 6 Nations in history. After Ireland running rampant in Italy, England narrowly beat Wales in Cardiff by scoring a converted try in the last 4 minutes, and France narrowly beat Scotland in Paris. It seems that 5 of the 6 nations are pretty evenly matched, so most of the games look like they could be very close.

Italy v Ireland

Ireland went to Rome seeking to make amends for their loss last week to Scotland. They won comfortably by 63 points to 10, running in 9 tries. Italy were woeful, not to take anything away from Ireland, and it has re-opened the debate as to whether Italy deserve to be in the 6 Nations at all. An idea which has been floating around for a while is that there should be relegation from the 6 Nations, with the second tier European countries like Romania and Georgia in a play-off against the bottom placed country in the 6 Nations table to see who should make up the sixth place the following year.

But, one needs to bear in mind that, when France joined the then 4 Nations to make the 5 Nations (back in 1910) they barely won any matches for well over a decade. Their initial record in the 5 Nations was worse that Italy’s current record in the 6 Nations, but they went on to be one of the best teams in the world. So, in my opinion we should give Italy more time to bring their rugby up to speed, not expel them yet.

Wales v England

This was, for most people, the big game of the weekend. Wales and England have been playing each other since 1881, and had played each other a total of 129 times prior to this weekend. With the record at 60 wins to England, 57 to Wales and 12 drawn matches, long-term they could not be more evenly matched.

It was a cracking match; at no point were the two sides more than 5 points apart, and the ferocity and competitiveness on display was something to behold. This was the best Welsh performance since beating England in the world cup in September 2014. And, it is a match that Wales could have won and should have won. At half time we were 13-8 up, and between 50 and 75 minutes we were, in my opinion, by far the better side. England looked rattled, and at 74 minutes the score was 16-14 to Wales.

With England threatening the Welsh try line, Dan Biggar made a superb interception and broke up field. Isolated, he kicked ahead and a desparate English defence kicked it into touch, giving Wales an attacking line-out in the English 22. But, we fluffed it, and this for me was the incident which lost us the match. With only 5 minutes on the clock, we could have won the line-out, and played out the remaining 5 minutes in England’s 22, or even gone for a drop goal.

But, instead, we found ourselves back under pressure near our own try line. The ball came back to centre Jonathan Davies, who kicked up-field. But, rather than kicking into touch, he kicked in-field, something the Welsh team had been doing all afternoon. It was a crazy decision; he should have belted it into the stands and given the Welsh forwards as much time as possible to slow the game down and regain their breath for the line-out. Instead, George Ford caught Davies’ in-field kick, passed it to Owen Farrell who spun a long pass to winger Elliot Daly. Daly outclassed a poor Alex Cuthbert to score in the corner, and Farrell slotted the conversion to rub salt into the wound.

We went from being in control and 16-14 ahead to losing 21-16.

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Wales lost to England 21-16 in Cardiff, with England snatching a try with only 4 minutes left on the clock to break Welsh hearts.

As I say, in my opinion not only were Wales the better team, but it is a match that we lost rather than England winning it. Poor decision making, particularly in the last 5 minutes, cost us what would have been a memorable win over a very good England team. On the plus side, it was the closest this England team under Eddie Jones has been pushed during his 14 months in charge. And, Wales are finally beginning to develop their game beyond the Warren-ball of the last too many years. I hope we can back it up by winning in Scotland in two weeks’ time.

France v Scotland

This was another close fought match, with France sneaking it 22-16. Scotland had their chances, and they are a much improved side. They have so many good back-line players that they look dangerous from anywhere on the field, and it is great to see them so competitive again. They are going to be a tough prospect for Wales in what is our next game.

Round 3 of the 6 Nations

The 6 Nations now takes a slight hiatus; the next round of matches are in a fortnight’s time rather than this coming weekend. On Saturday 25th February, Wales head up to Murrayfield to take on Scotland, with the KO at 14:25. The second match of the day is Ireland at home to France, KO is 16:50. On Sunday 26th, England host Italy at Twickenham, with the KO at 15:00. I will preview these matches closer to the time.

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Later today Wales take on England in the 2017 6 Nations. Unfortunately for Wales, this is only our second game of the championships, and I don’t think we are up to speed yet. Yes, we won convincingly in Italy last Sunday, but our first half display showed many of our weaknesses. England, on the other hand, battled to a win against France, and with only 10 minutes to go they looked like they would lose. So, which side will be better prepared for today’s clash?

Wales have two injury worries to deal with. Both Dan Biggar (outside-half) and George North (wing) suffered injuries against Italy. They have been named in the starting 15, but Rob Howley may find that they fail final fitness tests and do not play. Should Dan Biggar not start, then Sam Davies will start in his place. Davies is a more attacking outside-half than Biggar, and personally I think that he gets the backline moving better. But, if Biggar is fit I would prefer to see him start, with Davies coming on at about 60 minutes as the game opens up for the last quarter.

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Both Dan Biggar and George North are doubts for today’s clash with England. They have been named in the starting 15, but both suffered injuries against Italy last Sunday.

The other impact player which Wales will hope to bring on during the last quarter is our outstanding number 8 Taulupe Faletau. He has been injured, so has not played much rugby in the last few months. But, I am sure that he has kept himself fit enough to put in a barn-storming 20 minutes and I’m in no doubt that he will be brought on as impact replacement.

England have only won two of their last seven visits to Cardiff, so their coach Eddie Jones will be doing all he can to tell his players that they should not fear the Millennium Stadium. But, if you have ever been to this cathedral of rugby you will know that it is intimidating. England have opted to leave the roof open, which does reduce the noise in the stadium somewhat. But, with 74,500 supporters, most of them shouting for Wales, do not underestimate how intimidating that will be for England. And, with England unbeaten under Eddie Jones, there is nothing Wales would like more than to be the first country to break this winning streak. Beating England is not the be-all and end-all of Welsh rugby, but it is very sweet when we do beat our larger, noisier neighbour.

The head-to-head between Wales and England is almost tied. They have played each other 129 times. England have won 60, Wales 57, with 12 matches being drawn. Will it be 61 to 57, or 60 to 58 after today? We will know in a few hours……

DERE ‘MLAEN CYMRU!!!! / COME ON WALES!!!!

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The first weekend of the 2017 6 Nations is over, and it threw up a few surprises. On Saturday, Scotland beat Ireland in Edinburgh, and England came close to being beaten by France at Twickenham. Yesterday (Sunday), Wales won comfortably in Rome, but not before Italy gave Wales a bit of a scare in the first half.

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Wales beat Italy in Rome by 33-7 to get their 2017 6 Nations campaign off to a positive start.

Scotland v Ireland

The biggest upset of the first weekend was Scotland’s surprise win over Ireland. Ireland had gone into this 6 Nations being tipped by many pundits as the favourites to win the tournament. They were not favourites with the bookmakers, but that is because few of them can see beyond England. But, with many (most?) rugby experts, Ireland were felt to be the team most likely to win the title this year.

Scotland, however, had different ideas. In a blistering first half they went 14-0 up with two wonderful tries. They then scored a third try, and were 21-5 up before Ireland slotted a penalty to bring the half-time score to 21-8. The second half saw Ireland surge back to go into the lead 22-21. Scotland teams of the last few years would have folded at this point, but this Scotland team showed glimpses in the autumn of having reached a level not seen by any Scotland team since the 1990s. They scored two more penalties and deservedly won a stunning match 27-22.

England v France

It has, of course, become a total cliché that you never know which France will turn up, and this match against England was a perfect example of why that cliché is so true. France came out with all guns blazing, and were by far the better team for most of this match. It was 9-9 at half-time, but England were lucky that France didn’t didn’t go into half-time with a comfortable lead. France then went up 16-12 in the second half, and I believe a more experienced and better composed French team would have closed out the match. But, inexperience combined with some astute substitutions by England saw them score a converted try to snatch the game 19-16. Their unbeaten run under Eddie Jones continues.

Italy v Wales

Wales usually start each run of games poorly, so having Italy as the first match was a bit of relief as they are still the easiest side in the 6 Nations to beat. However, Wales have lost in Italy, twice I think since Italy joined the annual tournament. And, during the first half Wales could not convert their possession and territory into points. I was a little baffled that, so early in the match, we turned down kickable penalties to go for touch with the aim of scoring a try. I think this was a mistake so early in the match, and Italy went into half time with a 7-3 lead, even though Wales had dominated.

The second half was much better for Wales. At 50 minutes Rob Howley replaced both props, and suddenly Wales were in the ascendancy. One of the Italian props was sin-binned for dropping to his knee in a scrum, and Wales ran in two tries during the time that Italy were down to 14 men. With some 5 minutes to go George North ran from his own 22 to score Wales’ third try, and the possibility was on to score a fourth try and win a bonus point. Liam Williams came very close in the dying seconds, but failed to ground the ball so the match ended 33-7. It was a comfortable win, but I would not say that Wales were that impressive. We should have cut loose in the second half as Italy became more and more disorganised.

Next weekend

I will preview next weekend’s matches properly on Friday, but it sees Ireland go to Italy, Scotland go to France, and England come to Wales. For me, the question is whether England’s relatively poor performance against France is a good or a bad thing for Wales. Some times sides come back stronger after a defeat, and I am sure had England lost against France they would be coming down to Cardiff all fired up to make amends for their defeat. As it is, they scraped a win without deserving it and putting in their worst performance under Eddie Jones. Does this mean that they will come down to Cardiff with their confidence dented, or with a feeling that they can win in Cardiff without playing that well?

As for Wales, we won comfortably in Rome but it was a stuttering performance. We looked very good in the last 20 minutes, and were the better team in the first quarter and the third quarter of the match, but during the second quarter Italy were better than us. We failed to convert lots of chances in the first half, but during the second half we did a lot better in this regard. As even Jeremy Guscott, the ex-England centre, said on TV last night, if the best players in Wales’ side play the kind of game which they are capable of playing we should beat England. Unfortunately, they have not shown that kind of consistency of play for over 3 years now. It will be a fascinating encounter.

 

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Tomorrow (Saturday 4th of February) sees the start of the annual 6 Nations rugby competition. Despite the attempts of the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship to increase its appeal, there are few who would disagree that the 6 Nations is the greatest and most intensely contested tournament in World rugby. The 2017 6 Nations sees England start as both defending champions and favourites, and this despite Ireland’s autumn test series which saw them beat New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. Wales, quite deservedly, start as third favourites behind England and Ireland, which is where I would place them too.

England are not only defending champions, but also they won the 2106 6 Nations with a Grand Slam. Very few sides have won back-to-back Grand Slams, so England will be hoping that they can achieve this rare feat. They are also unbeaten since Eddie Jones took over after their disastrous showing in the 2015 World Cup; so each of the other 5 nations will be looking to get that first win under his leadership. England’s opening match is a home one against France. France used to be perennial contenders for the 6 Nations crown, but have fallen badly behind Wales, England and Ireland in the last few years. Few expect them to cause an upset at Twickenham tomorrow.

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The 2017 6 Nations starts tomorrow (Saturday 4th of February). Wales’ first match is an away match to Italy on Sunday, followed the following Saturday (11th) by a home match against England.

Wales start their 6 Nations campaign on Sunday with an away match against Italy. No away match is easy in the 6 Nations anymore, and Wales have lost a few times in Italy. But, of all the away matches to start with, one against Italy is probably the most favourable. We have gone to Italy before and racked up points, and if we manage to do that on Sunday it will be a great start for us. Sadly, we usually start any campaign poorly, so I suspect that we will scrape a win against Italy, but it will not be a convincing one.

Our second match is against England in Cardiff on Saturday 11th of February. It would be a fairytale if we could be the first country to beat England under Eddie Jones’ leadership, and if this match were third of fourth or fifth in the campaign I would fancy our chances. But, I am not sure that we will be firing on all cylinders by the second match, and although I hope that we will win I fear a home defeat could well be on the cards.

Wales are, of course, going into this 6 Nations under the leadership of interim manager Rob Howley, as Warren Gatland is on leave to prepare for the summer’s Lions’ tour to New Zealand. We also won three of our four autumn tests under Howley, something that we had not done since 2004. But, we did not win any one of those three matches in a convincing fashion, and England and Ireland currently look streets ahead of us. But, at this level the margins are very very fine.

The Welsh squad certainly have the talent to be as good or better than England. In my opinion we have better players than England, but we are not functioning at the same level as they are as a team. The question is, can Howley iron out those little problems which were so apparent in the autumn series and see us get back to the level of play we showed under him in the 2013 6 Nations? Remember, that is the season when England came to Cardiff chasing a Grand Slam in the last game of the 6 Nations, and we annihilated them 30-3.

In some 8 days’ time, the game against England will be over and we will know if we are back to anything like that kind of form again.

Here is Wales’ schedule for the 2017 6 Nations. All times are GMT, not the local time (in Rome or Paris, which are one hour ahead of GMT).

  • Sunday 5th February – Italy v Wales (KO 14:00 GMT)
  • Saturday 11th February – Wales v England (KO 16:50 GMT)
  • Saturday 25th February – Scotland v Wales (KO 14:25 GMT)
  • Friday 10th March – Wales v Ireland (KO 20:00 GMT)
  • Saturday 17th March – France v Wales (KO 14:45 GMT)

COME ON WALES!!!! DERE ‘MLAEN CYMRU!!!!

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The 4th weekend of the 2016 6 Nations has left England still on course for the Grand Slam, and already crowned 2016 champions with the final weekend still to come. In a thorough demolition of Wales at Twickenham they showed that they are much improved from the side that Wales beat there just 5 months ago. England saw off a late surge from Wales to hold on to win 25-21. In the first match of the weekend Ireland thrashed Italy 58-15 to register their first win of the Championships, and in Sunday’s match Scotland beat France 29-18, the first time they have beaten Les Bleus in 10 years!

Ireland v Italy

It is difficult to understand what has happened to Ireland in the last twelve months. To only be registering their first victory of the 2016 6 Nations in its fourth weekend is very strange for the country which has won the Championships the last two years running. Whether they have been traumatised by their heavy defeat to Argentina in the quarter finals of the World Cup, or whether it is something else, I have no idea.

Finally they put in a display which is worthy of them, running in nine tries in Dublin to wallop Italy 58-15. I did not see the game, but am pleased to see Ireland back in form.

England v Wales

This was, for any Welsh person, the big match of the weekend. The build-up during the week had been relentless, as I blogged about on Friday. But, when the game started Wales were nowhere to be seen. We were largely absent for the first 60 minutes of this match, going down 19-0 and 25-7 before we rallied in the last 7 minutes to make the final score a more respectable 25-21.

I really don’t know what happened to Wales in the first half. It is true that England were good, in fact they were considerably better than Wales. But, Wales did not look like they were interested; they looked lethargic, slow, lacking commitment and as if they did not have the will to play a decent game. We missed so many tackles in the first half that I could not believe what I was seeing, 19 missed tackles in the first half, more than we typically miss in a whole championship! The total number of missed tackles by the end of the match was 27. Crazy for a team who pride themselves on their defence. We also kept getting turned over at the breakdown, it was truly shocking. At  half time it was 16-0, and Wales were lucky to have zero.

Whatever Gatland and Shaun Edwards said at half time to the hapless Welsh players clearly had some impact, because they came out in the second half a different team. After Farrel put England ahead 19-0, Dan Biggar charged a kick down to score under the posts. Suddenly it was 19-7. Then, two more penalties to England put them 25-7 ahead, and the brief hope of a Welsh revival seemed to be extinguished.

With the score at 25-7 and only 7 minutes left on the clock the Welsh team came to life. We scored two tries in quick succession to make it 25-21, and England looked rattled. Wales could have snatched it with a late break down the touchline by George North. On replays it is clear to me that the assistant referee made a mistake, North got the ball away before he was in touch. Whether Wales would have scored a try is debatable, as the English player and man of the match Maro Itoje looked ready to nail Rhys Webb who had caught North’s pass. But, who knows? It is frustrating from a Welsh viewpoint that a bad call should deny us a possible last-gasp victory; but I must repeat that England were the better team on the day and deserved to win.

Obviously I wanted Wales to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but had they done so it would not have been a fair result as, for 60-plus minutes of this game, we were thoroughly outplayed. England deserved their victory, and Wales need to get to the bottom of how they can put in such an abject performance for 40-plus minutes of a match with as much riding on it as this one had. It is difficult to tell how good England were in the first half, as Wales were clearly below par. But, there is no doubt that England are a much better team than they were in the World Cup, and this is clearly due to Eddie Jones, their new coach.

 

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Wales’ first half display was abject, I have rarely seen such a lacklustre performance by a Welsh team since Gatland took over in 2008

Scotland v France

With Scotland beating France 29-18, this was the surprise result of the weekend. Not only have Scotland not beaten France in 10 years, but until their victory over Italy two weeks ago, they had gone some ten 6 Nations matches without a win. Now they have two back-to-back wins! By beating France they have ensured that England have won the 2016 6 Nations, irrespective of what happens in the final weekend.

Final Weekend Preview

Next weekend will be the fifth and final weekend of the 2016 6 Nations. The main question is can England go to France and win there to secure the first Grand Slam since 2003? They should do, as not only are they a much better team under Eddie Jones, but France have been pretty useless in this championships. However, of any team in the 6 Nations, France are the most unpredictable, so England cannot be complacent. England have fallen several times at the last hurdle in the last 5-6 years, but I am sure Eddie Jones will ensure that this does not happen this time.

Scotland go to Dublin on a two-match winning streak, and it is going to be very interesting to see how well a confident Scotland can do against an Ireland who are still below par and lacking confidence. I am pretty neutral when it comes to Ireland v Scotland, but I would like to see Scotland do well and lift themselves from the whipping boys they have become in the last several years.

Wales take on Italy at home for their final game. It should be a comfortable win, but the Welsh fans will want to see some expansive rugby and plenty of tries. We go on tour to New Zealand in the summer, and if we play as we have done in this 6 Nations we are going to get thumped by the All Blacks. If we beat Italy we will finish second in the table, but this should not mask the serious work that Wales need to do to improve, we have gone backwards since the World Cup. 

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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.

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Wales defeated France 19-10 in Cardiff on Friday evening

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.

Twickenham callling

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!

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What an absolutely incredible final weekend we had to the 2015 6 Nations. It went right down to beyond 80 minutes in the last game of the “super Saturday” to see who was going to win this year’s 6 Nations crown.

Italy v Wales

The first game of the weekend was Italy v Wales. With Wales going into the match with the worst points difference compared to England and Ireland, we needed to pile on the points to stand any chance of lifting the 6 Nations Championship this year.

After a disappointing first half, in which Italy were a match for Wales, the half time score was 14-13 to Wales. But, within the first ten minutes of the second half Wales moved up another gear, and ended up piling the points on to eventually win 61-20, meaning that England would have to win by at least 16 points in their match against France, and Ireland would have to win theirs by at least 20 points. Apart from letting in a last minute try, which is because Wales were trying to run it from everywhere, it was a nearly flawless second half display by us.



Wales beat Italy 61-20 in a fantastic second  half display, to put themselves right back in contention of winning the 2015 6 Nations.

Wales beat Italy 61-20 in a fantastic second half display, to put themselves right back in contention of winning the 2015 6 Nations.



Scotland v Ireland

The second match of the day was Scotland v Ireland, with Ireland not only having to beat Scotland to retain their 6 Nations crown, but to win by at least 20 points. I didn’t see this game as I had to drive somewhere, and unfortunately it was not on Radio 5 but only on Radio 5 Sports Extra, which my car radio cannot get. So I only got a few updates of the score, but much to my disappointment Ireland not only won, but won 40-10, so putting themselves above Wales in the final table on points difference.



Ireland beat Scotland 40 to 10 and so put themselves above Wales in the final table. Now, all eyes turned to Twickenham to see what England could do.

Ireland beat Scotland 40 to 10, and so put themselves above Wales in the final table. Now, all eyes turned to Twickenham to see what England could do.



Now, all eyes turned to Twickenham, to see if England could beat France by 26 points, in order to overhaul Ireland’s points difference.

England v France

As it typical of the French, they shocked everyone by putting in a pretty decent display, much better than their woeful exhibitions in pretty much all of their other games this Championships. But, England were just too strong for them, and with 5 minutes to go the scoreline was 55 to 35. One converted try and England would win the Championships. With just some two minutes to go they had a penalty, kicked for the corner and from the line-out used a driving maul to try to score.

They then got penalised in the tackle, and so France had a penalty. By this time the clock was passing 80 minutes, so all France had to do was kick to touch and the game would be over. But France decided to run the ball from their try line, and came within a hair’s breadth of losing the ball back to England. It was nail biting stuff, but finally sense prevailed and France kicked the ball out of play and the game was over. England had come close, but had just fallen short of getting the 26-point margin they needed.



England beat France by 55 to 35, coming within 6 points of the margin they needed. Close, but not close enough.

England beat France by 55 to 35, coming within 6 points of the margin they needed. Close, but not close enough.



And so, after an incredibly exciting final day, Ireland retained their 6 Nations crown, with England coming second and Wales third, with only points difference separating the three countries.



Ireland retained their 6 Nations crown after a nail-biting end to the match between England and France at Twickenham.

Ireland retained their 6 Nations crown after a nail-biting end to the match between England and France at Twickenham.



Super Saturday

There had been some discussion in the week as to whether it was fair on Wales and Ireland that England would play after them and therefore know what winning margin they would need. When it is the final day of the English Premiership in football all the matches start at the same time. So, some people have suggested that this is the way the final weekend should be in the 6 Nations.

Personally, I think it rather adds to the excitement when you have games like today played one after the other. Yes it is true that both Ireland and England knew what margin of victory they needed, but the tension in the last 5 minutes of the England v France game when they were within a converted try of getting the margin they needed was incredible. There have been three 6 Nations in a row now (or maybe 4?) when who would win the title has come down to the last weekend, and even the last game. I would leave it the way it is.

Reflections on the 2015 6 Nations

Scotland, despite showing promising signs of improvement, finish with the wooden spoon, not a single victory in the whole tournament. But, I think they are on the right path and I expect them to do better in next year’s tournament.

Italy beat Scotland, but that was their only victory. They seem to play well for the first half, and then run out of steam and get well beaten in the second half of most of their matches.

England are, for me, the most impressive team in Europe at the moment. It pains me to say this, but I think Stuart Lancaster has put together a really good squad, and they are playing with inventiveness and flair, not something usually associated with English rugby. They scored the most tries in this year’s competition, and with home advantage in the World Cup, Wales are going to find them tough to beat in the group match we have against them.

Ireland are a well coached side. They are not spectacular in their play, but what they do they do very well. Apart from their loss to Wales, they deserved to win each of their matches in this year’s 6 Nations, and did so comfortably.

And so to finish with my own country. Apart from a poor second half performance against England, Wales would have not only won the Championships, but would have won the Grand Slam. So, that is a positive. But, in that second half performance against England, they were completely overpowered. That is worrying. But, again on the plus side, Wales improved as the tournament went on (as we always seem to do, we are slow starters), and if we had been playing England in Cardiff in our last match and not our first I wouldn’t mind betting that we would have beaten them.

And, beat them of course we need to in our World Cup group game, otherwise we will not get out of the group. Most Welsh rugby fans are optimists (or delusional 😛 ), and I think with the several months that Warren Gatland will have with the side from June through to October, that Wales can give both England and Australia a good fight in the group stages. We have two warm-up games against Ireland (home and away), and with the fitness and strength work that I know Gatland has been doing with the Welsh players during this 6 Nations, I think we can build on our improving performances in this tournament. We shall see!

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