Sunday, 21 February 2016

Six Nations 2016…the story so far...

Any Six Nations after a World Cup is a curious beast. And 2016 is no different, if anything being even more of a basket case than usual given the failure of any of the participating nations to reach the last four of the World Cup.

And, yes, yes, I’m well aware that the Scots were a mere Craig “Running Man” Joubert call away from making the semi-finals in the autumn, but just look at what that near miss has done for them now. All bright-eyed, bushy–tailed and full of confidence going into this tournament, they were lucky to finish second in a two horse race against England and, whilst much improved against Wales, when it really mattered in Cardiff the Scottish defence vanished like a fart in the wind. A scrap for the wooden spoon now beckons with Italy ('twas ever thus) and, possibly, Ireland.

Talking of Italy, at least they appear to be blooding a few new faces this tournament and in Carlo Canna may, just may, have finally found a worthy successor to Diego Dominguez at fly half. Judging on the first 140 minutes of this Six Nations the Italians also appear to be developing an effective all-court game, away from their traditional forward power play. All they need to do now is persuade talisman Sergio Parisse to just get on with doing his job and to stop trying, much like the big kid in an under 13s team, to win matches single handedly.

Moving on to the French, 2 wins from 2 suggests at the very least that they could be title contenders. But surely not? Each year we churn out stereotypical bollocks about the “mercurial” French but, on the evidence of what we’re seeing so far this year, for “mercurial” read “a total and utter shambles". Serge Blanco would be spinning in his grave - if he was dead...and not quite so fat.

That Ireland, held together largely by sticking plaster, could not beat the French rabble in Paris is, I'm sorry to say, a sad indictment of their current attacking nous. Yes, of course no one can deny that they’ve had more than their fair share of injuries and yes, the retirement of Paul O’Connell was bound to have an effect, but Ireland still controlled large chunks of their first 2 games without having the wherewithal to find a way win. The Irish game currently has all the spontaneity of an accountant's spreadsheet. Ireland look predictable and, whisper it quietly, over-coached.

Speaking of predictable, early indications from the Welsh camp that they intended to play a wider game appear to have been…ahem...wide of the mark. Picking 2 open side flankers is all very well, but is a tad pointless if all your centres do all day is bosh the ball up the middle. Dr. Roberts is a mountain of a man but if Warrenball is to evolve the Welsh must consider playing at least one player in the midfield who can pass the ball.

And so to England. Wins over perennial whipping boys Scotland and Italy really tell us very little about this England team, although it must be obvious to far better judges than myself that England cannot afford to continue with the slowest backrow in the history of christendom, that England’s captain is an inferior player to the chap understudying him on the bench and that persisting with an out-of-form 10 and an out-of-position 12 and expecting them to defend the inside channel against the likes of Messrs Henshaw & Roberts in the next two matches is a disaster of cataclysmic proportions waiting to happen.

Predictions? Really? Okay, go on then ... England to beat Ireland and Wales but then to slip up in Paris. France to lose to Wales but to beat Scotland and England. Wales to beat Scotland and France but to lose at Twickenham. Scotland to lose to France but to beat Ireland and Italy. Ireland's sole victory to come against the Italians, who finish with the wooden spoon.

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