Monday, March 13, 2006

Six Nations - Fourth Weekend

As an England supporter, writing these reviews are becoming an act of penance. What a weekend; Italy hold Wales to a draw - in Cardiff, Ireland play to something like their true potential, and Scotland demonstrate an inability to travel and England capitulate to France. This last match was a match to be endured!

Wales 18 - 18 Italy

This match, probably more than any other match, demonstrated that Italy have a right to play on the world stage of rugby. They came to the millennium stadium and refused to be cowed by the venue, crowd or team. This was a scrappy game which suited the visitors far more than Wales. Wales got off to a bright start, but Italy refused to lie down, and piled on the pressure themselves. Wales scored first with a Mark Jones try, but Italy fought back causing Welsh mistakes and eventually Galon 'scored' for the Italians. This was a controversial try, as it looked as if he grounded over the dead-ball line. I suspect that Galon lost his bearings and thought it was the try line instead. Anyway, the TV playback was inconclusive, so the try was given. Wales managed a further try through Steven Jones, but an intercepted pass by Canavosio restored the balance. The second half, both sides played themselves to a standstill, with a penalty each to bring the score to 18 all. Wales should have won this match, and Italy, if fitter, could have won this match. This was the most entertaining match of the weekend.

Ireland 15 - 9 Scotland

Ireland have now played themselves into a potential Triple Crown and Six Nations championship position. This was a game where defense dominated, and the only scores came from penalties. Scotland's defense was particularly good holding back the onslaught of the Irish backs. Along with Italy, Scotland have proved to be a revelation this season, playing with passion and commitment. The match was played in quite difficult conditions with the stadium being hit by a cold drenching rain. However, a last win for Ireland at their spiritual home before it is demolished for a new 21st century stadium. Ireland must be feeling confident for their match next weekend with England, however, it is to be played at Twickenham, which could make quite a difference.

France 31 - 6 England

It has been a long time since I've seen a worse performance from England. They never really got going, and in part, looked as if they really didn't want to be there. France were 7 points up in the first 2 minutes with a try coming from an untypical mistake in the backs in not securing a 'Gary Owen' kick. Further penalties for France followed allowing the scoreboard to trickle away from England. The main concern were the number of elementary errors being made by England, from not finding touch to kicking direct to touch. They had a tendency to over-complicate when, they weren't even doing the basics right. By half-time, France were ahead 16 - 3, and the second half failed to bring relief. France didn't play particularly well or fluidly, but they didn't need to, - England gifted the match to them.

Next weekend is the final weekend of the championship. Mathematically, if France lose in Wales, England can still win the Six Nations title by thrashing Ireland next Saturday, but that is unlikely on this evidence. The Championship is still wide open, with really only Wales and Italy ruled out of the running. Part of me can't wait for next weekend, but part of me is feeling very nervous.


Eddie said...

Hi Mark,
We've had some good natured banter in the past about the relative merits of the 2 rugby codes.
I have to say though, the comments of Dick Best and Geoff Cooke, (according to BBC Ceefax, "Two former international coaches..."), take the biscuit. They claim that there is too much reliance on rugby league coaches in the England set-up.
Dick Best,is quoted as saying, "Make no mistake this is a crisis. It seems to me there are too many people with rugby league backgrounds in the England camp."
Geoff Cooke,says, "Joe Lydon was a fantastic rugby league player. But does he have the union knowledge to give England an effective attack?"
So there you are then. The England rugby union team is playing badly. Obviously the blame needs to be firmly laid at the door of the other code.
It's a pity that the rugby union can't do to rugby league what their French cousins did to rugby treize during the second world war. Get the government to declare the playing of it illegal. Then we'd find out just how good the overpaid, overrated and usually overweight union players are, without being able to look up to, sorry I mean look down on their much more athletic league counterparts.
Come on Ireland, stuff 'em!

Mark said...

Thanks Eddie for that. The problem for me was that it looked as if they wern't being coached at all! Certainly, the influence of rugby league has been noticable, particularly in the way the backs have tried to play in the past, but I just felt that the guys out there just didn't want to be there. I have to admit there have been games where I've felt the same when I played, and it is very hard to overcome it.

For me, England wern't just bad, they were atrocious, and they need to step it up this weekend. The one ray of hope is that none of the big four have yet played a full competent game.