Posts Tagged ‘Rugby Football Union’

Despite a stutter with about 20 minutes to go, England succeeded in beating France and winning the Grand Slam. Wales thrashed Italy, and Ireland beat a resurgent Scotland in the final weekend of the 2016 6 Nations.

Wales v Italy

Wales needed to make amends for their terrible first half performance against England in Twickenham last week, and in many respects they did. They beat Italy 67-14, running in nine tries and scoring their highest ever points tally in a 6 Nations match. Whereas it took Wales 60 minutes to wake up last week, against Italy they were dominant from the start and showed the kind of attacking flair which fans are so desperate to see in other matches.

Why Wales cannot move the ball wide with such skill and speed against better opposition is something I don’t fully understand. Each time they went wide they looked dangerous, and yet against better opposition Wales play a narrow game and the wingers rarely see the ball. With a daunting three-test tour of New Zealand coming up in June, and a “friendly” against England at Twickenham at the end of May, surely this next few months is the time to try and add some variety to the Warren-ball game plan which has become all too predictable. I fully expect Wales will be taught a rugby-playing lesson by the All Blacks in June, which will once again show the massive gulf between us and the best in the World. So, why not try something different and see if we can move the ball wide as much as possible; we have nothing to lose as we are going to lose anyway!

Ireland v Scotland

Scotland continue their revival by giving Ireland a run for their money in Dublin. Although Ireland won 35-25, Scotland were more than decent opposition and had their chances to have made this match even closer. Until Scotland had a player sin-binned deep into the second half, they genuinely looked like they could win this pulsating match. I am so pleased to see this long-awaited revival of Scottish fortunes, it has been too long since they were a decent team and hopefully they are on their way back to where they were 20-odd years ago.

France v England

You never know where you are with France, and this match proved that cliché as much as any I’ve seen. After looking abject throughout most of this 6 Nations, France put in a performance which rattled England. In fact, if they had not had so many of their line outs stolen, France could have won this match. Going in to the last quarter England were 25-21 up and France looked the better team. But, thanks to some superb line out work by England’s two second rows, les Bleus lost too much vital possession and field position, and England held on to win their first Grand Slam since 2003.


England held off a second half surge from France to win the Grand Slam for the first time since 2003

Although I was hoping for an upset in Paris, as of course I wanted to see England fail at the final hurdle as they have done 5 times in the last 20 years, I do have to say that they thoroughly deserved to win this year’s 6 Nations. True, Wales could have beaten them if the game had continued another 5 minutes, but had we done so it would not have been a fair reflection of England’s dominance in the match. Yesterday’s match in Paris was, in fact, a much closer affair, despite what the scoreline says. At no point did England look particularly dominant, and a more confident France could well have given the upset so many of us non-English wanted to see.

The summer tours

As has now become customary, the Northern Hemisphere countries will now trek south in June to take on the Southern Hemisphere countries. Wales go to New Zealand, England to Australia and Ireland to South Africa. Scotland go to Japan, which is not the easy tour that it used to be.

I fully expect Wales to lose 3-0 in their test series; which is not being pessimistic, just realistic. England could well give Australia a tough series; they have certainly been the team who have improved most since their terrible display in the World Cup. Ireland have been strange; two decent performances, a reasonable performance against Wales, but two terrible performances against England and France. It will be interesting to see how they get on in South Africa.

Most teams seem to now look upon the period after a World Cup as a time to rebuild, and I sincerely hope that Wales’ rebuilding includes adopting a more adventurous game plan, we certainly need it. We have gone backwards in the last 3 years; it is time for a rethink amongst the Welsh management.

Read Full Post »

The 4th weekend of this year’s 6 Nations saw Wales take on Ireland, followed by England playing Scotland; and finally on Sunday Italy took on France.

Wales v Ireland

What an exciting 4th weekend of the 2015 6 Nations it was for Welsh fans. Much to most people’s surprise, including mine; Wales beat Ireland in what, by all accounts, was a thrilling game in Cardiff. Unfortunately I was on a bus from Valparaiso to Santiago in Chile at the end of my two week cruise in South America; so it was only due to texts from my wife and my sister that I was able to keep abreast of what was going on! I am yet to see the game, except for 2-minute highlights; but from everything I have read it seems that it was one of the best defensive performances by Wales in recent years. Ireland threw everything at Wales, but the Welsh defence stood firm to keep them out.

Ireland went into the game on a 10-match winning streak, and were the bookies’ favourites to beat Wales, despite Wales playing at home. But Wales raced into a 12-0 lead which, from what I have read, rattled Ireland. However, I have also read that at half time, with the score at 15-6 to Wales, many felt that Ireland would take hold of the game in the second half. But, despite the Irish being camped in the Welsh half for long periods, the Welsh defence was apparently supreme and held out to onslaught after onslaught from the men in green. Many pundits are calling it one of the best-fought Welsh wins in many many years.

Sam Warburton and Leigh Halfpenny celebrate a remarkable victory over Ireland to keep Wales' hopes of a 3rd 6 Nations Championship in 4 years alive.

Sam Warburton and Leigh Halfpenny celebrate a remarkable victory over Ireland to keep Wales’ hopes of a 3rd 6 Nations Championship in 4 years alive.

England v Scotland

Although I was in a hotel in Santiago by the time this game came on ESPN2, I did not really watch it as I was shattered from being woken up early as the ship came into port in Valparaiso and the anchors being dropped from what seemed like 1 metre from our cabin at 4am! So, all I really know about this game is the score, and that in the first half Scotland gave England a bit of a scare before being overpowered by a very strong England side. It means England retain the Calcutta Cup, and are probably favourites to win this year’s Championships (but more on that below).

England beat Scotland to retain the Calcutta Cup and to keep their hopes of finally lifting a 6 Nations Championships alive. They have not won one since 2003!!

England beat Scotland to retain the Calcutta Cup and to keep their hopes of finally lifting a 6 Nations Championships alive. They have not won one since 2003!!

Italy v France

I have seen nothing nor read anything about this game, but the scoreline suggests it was a comfortable win for France.

France went to Rome and beat Italy comfortably, if the scoreline is anything to go by.

France went to Rome and beat Italy comfortably, if the scoreline is anything to go by.

Summary and next weekend

With Wales beating Ireland, the Irish’s hope of a Grand Slam is over, but they can still win the Championships next weekend.

A summary of the results from the 4th weekend of the 2015 6 Nations

A summary of the results from the 4th weekend of the 2015 6 Nations

I haven’t had time to read up about all the possible permutations for next weekend; but from what I can gather Wales, Ireland and England all have a chance of winning the 2015 6 Nations. Wales are the first to play on “super Saturday”, with an away game against Italy. As Gatland said in his post-match interview, if we go to Rome thinking we can rack up a big score we may well come unstuck. Italy are not the push-over that they were ten years ago, and Wales will need to tire them out before we can think of opening up the game. I expect the Welsh forwards to grind down the Italian pack in the first 50-odd minutes, and then in the last 30 or so minutes for us to try and score some points. If we can score enough, we can win the Championships, but it is a big “if”.

England have the best points difference, so if they beat France they should, in theory, also with the Championships. But, who knows with France? I assume they put in a good display against Italy if they won 29-0, so maybe they will turn up in Twickenham and do a number on England. I sincerely hope so! Ireland should beat Scotland, but Scotland are a much better team this year and so I do not see Ireland getting a big win.

I know I may be getting my hopes up, but I really think Wales can do it and get a high-scoring win in Rome. If we do, we have a very good chance to win the 6 Nations for the 3rd time in 4 years, a remarkable achievement and one which will give us huge confidence going into the World Cup. I will have my fingers and toes very firmly crossed next Saturday!

Read Full Post »

Tomorrow evening Wales take on England in Cardiff in the opening match of the 2015 6 Nations. Two years ago England were at the end of a thrashing by Wales in their last game of the Championships (see my blog about the match here), losing 30-3 to a rampant Wales. At Twickenham last year England comfortably beat Wales, winning 29-18. Wales and England have been playing each other since 1881, with 125 matches played between them. England have won 57, Wales have won 56, and 12 matches have been drawn. So, it couldn’t be much closer really between the two countries.

Over the last 10 years Wales have had the upper hand over England, since 2005 Wales and England have played each other 13 times with Wales having won 7 times and England 6 times. However, three of these matches were World Cup warm-up matches, so if we just look at the 6 Nations matches then Wales have won 6 of the 10 since 2005, winning at home in 2005, 2007, 2011 and 2013 and away in 2008 and 2012. We have lost once at home to England in the 6 Nations since 2005, namely in 2009. Wales have beaten England twice in Twickenham in this period, in 2008 and 2012, both Grand Slam years!

The Wales v England match was also the first match of Wales’ 2005 6 Nations campaign, and was the beginning of Wales’ most recent “golden era” during which we have won three Grand Slams (2005, 2008 and 2012) and four 6 Nations titles (2005, 2008, 2012 and 2013). When we beat England in that 2005 match it was the first time we had beaten them since 1999, when we beat them 32-31 due to a last-gasp try by Scott Gibbs.

Tomorrow evening’s match is important for both sides. Win your first match in the 6 Nations and a team can rapidly gain momentum; conversely losing it can suck away a team’s self belief and can mean bleak prospects for the rest of the tournament. Added to that are the additional factors that England’s last visit to the Millennium Stadium was an absolute drubbing, and that the two sides are in the same group in the World Cup later this year.

Whereas the Welsh team is at full strength with all of Gatland’s first choice players available, the same cannot be said for England who have a horrendous injury list. In fact, if Wales had so many first choice players out injured we probably wouldn’t even have a team to put out ;), but England has so many more professional rugby players than any other country that they can also boast unparalleled strength in depth.

Gatland made the unusual step of announcing the Welsh team two days early, on Monday rather than yesterday. He said it was because he would be telling the players themselves on Monday and decided he didn’t want the team selection to leak out in the intervening two days. But, I suspect it is more to do with England’s extensive injury list and Gatland playing mind-games with his opposite number Stuart Lancaster by highlighting how settled the Welsh team is. This is exactly Gareth Thomas’ take on it too, see below. Apart from the question as to whether Gatland would start with Liam Williams in the back three, the rest of the team had pretty much picked itself and most Welsh rugby fans could have named it two months ago after we beat South Africa 12-6 in Cardiff.

Is Gatland's decision to name the Welsh team two days earlier than planned a question of playing mind-games with his England opposite number?

Is Gatland’s decision to name the Welsh team two days earlier than planned a question of playing mind-games with his England opposite number?

Make no mistake, tomorrow evening’s game is massive for us here in Wales. Having been to a 5 Nations match in Twickenham (back in 1983! It was England v France), the atmospheres do not compare. All of Cardiff is taken over by rugby fans on an international day, with the iconic Millennium Stadium being right in the centre of the city. Also, the design of the stadium with the steep stands means the crowd are nearly on top of the pitch, creating an atmosphere which is just not found in any other rugby stadium.

England can expect to be faced with a wall of noise from 74,000 passionate Welsh fans. I have not heard whether the roof will be closed or not, Gatland has stated that he wants it closed but it requires both teams to agree so it will be up to England to decide. But, whether open or closed I think we can expect a ferocious encounter, and I am confident Wales can win and level the series between the two rivals at 57 wins each.

Read Full Post »