12 February 2014

6 Nations state of the nations

After two rounds of the Championship each of the 6 Nations are in different places:


France probably believe they are in a good place with two wins against England and Italy. But their performances have been scrappy and incoherent. Their continuity game is slow and lacking accuracy. They play off slow ball and depend on individual players to make line-breaks to ignite their attack. Their defence is sloppy and their discipline is poor. Despite both their victories it is unlikely they will go undefeated and win the Grand Slam.


Ireland are in rude health after victories over Scotland and Wales. The latest win over the Welsh was very clinical and a lot more comprehensive than anybody expected. To date Ireland’s game plan has been very simple but unlike France it has been executed with laser point accuracy. If Ireland continue in this vein of form they will take a lot of stopping in the Championship. At the moment they are the team with the most momentum in the tournament.


England’s loss to France in Round 1 means they cannot afford to slip up for the remainder of the tournament. But their performances have been good and they feel they can still go on to win the Championship. Their victory over Scotland was comprehensive but they know they should have put more points in the board against an inept Scottish team. That lack of accuracy and inability to push home their advantage on the score board may well cost them the championship at the end of the day.


Wales have been the disappointment of the Championship thus far. Their performance against Italy was laboured and they were comprehensively beaten by Ireland. The predictability of their play seems to have been figured out by their opposition in the first two rounds of the Championship. Although with just one loss they are still in with a chance of winning the tournament but their form needs to improve dramatically if they are to have any chance of winning a third Championship in a row. A win against France in Cardiff in Round 3 could well ignite their Championship bid but that would require a big improvement in their form.


Having been comprehensively defeated by Ireland and England, Scotland seem to be slipping into a crisis. Their first two performances have show very little ambition and it would seem at times they are content to just keep the score against them as low as possible. There is a lot of disquiet among the Scottish rugby community as to where this Scottish team is headed. There is criticism of their tactical approach and team selections and huge pressure building on the coaches and players to improve performances quiet dramatically. It is hard to see how Scotland can stop the decline and on their current performances it could turn out to be a very long Championship for them.


Despite losing both games so far Italy have performed pretty well. They caused Wales all sorts of problems at the Millennium Stadium in Round 1. They performance against France in Round 2 was also good and apart from a couple of moments of individual brilliance by the French, Italy were well in the game. It is difficult to see them defeat Ireland or England, but they will certainly target a win against the Scottish. Two big performances against the Irish and English and a win against the Scots would certainly tick all the boxes for the Italians. Given their performances to date those outcomes are distinctly possible.