After this weekend's matches, the Championship is now wide open. All teams have now lost at least one match, but more worryingly is the quality of the rugby being played at the moment. If the Northern hemisphere teams are going to vanquish the All Blacks or the Aussies, we need to be playing a lot better than we are.
France 37-12 Italy
The scoreline may be emphatic, but most of those points were won by France in the last quarter when Italy began to tire. For an hour, Italy matched France's endeavour and their defense held. Italy actually went into half-time 4 points ahead. The second half saw a much looser game that suited the French, and with Thomas Castaignede back to something like his best, opportunities started to become available. They took a stranglehold when prop Peter de Villiers emerged with the ball after the France pack powered over the line with 15 minutes to go. Suddenly France started running the ball at every opportunity and Rougerie and Michalak touched down late on as the Italian defense started to tire.
Scotland 18-12 England
Scotland was everything England wasn't. England tried to keep it tight in the forwards, never really allowing the backs to get going, but Scotland matched them in just about all aspects of the game. In particular in their commitment at the breakdown and loose. They were often to the ball first, creating a number of turnovers. Scotland thoroughly deserved their win, - I'm just very depressed at England's lack of invention and ambition. They did not look like potential World Cup contenders.
Ireland 31-5 Wales
After the first 20 minutes, there was only one team in this game, - Ireland. Wales did produce the first score, but this only mobilised the Irish pack which imposed itself on the Welsh forward to the point that they scored a pushover try, probably scored another, but the ref didn't see it and provided lots of space for the Irish backs to express themselves. O'Driscoll was magnificent, running lines that caught the Welsh flat footed, and opening holes in the defense for the likes og O'Gara to exploit. Trys by Wallace, Horgan and Stringer just rubbed it in.
A fascinating weekend's rugby. Lots of interest with teams such as Scotland and Ireland showing that they are not spent forces. Another two weeks, and the most crucial games in the Championship are to be played. England against France in Paris, is still probably the Championship decider.