What a first weekend of the Guinness Six Nations.
Three cracking games, full of excitement, drama, talking points and, if this is what we are going to get in the other 12 matches, it is going to be some tournament.
Let’s look at the games in order:
Ireland came flying out of the blocks and blew Wales away in the first 20 minutes. Their intensity was only matched by their accuracy and I am not sure if any team could have lived with them. The game was almost done after 20 mins so, fair play to Wales for digging in and making it a competitive contest.
They played some good rugby so it is not all doom and gloom for Wales and Warren Gatland’s return to coaching them. Gatland went quite safe for his first selection and I think he might need to get a little braver and pick some of the young players who have been playing well recently for the regions. It finished 34-10 for Ireland and a bonus point win away from home is the perfect start to the Six Nations for my favourites for the Six Nations this year.
Scotland also got a bonus point win away from home after beating England 29-23 at Twickenham. Now that was a sentence I have never written before and, although I thought Scotland could win this game, I did not think it would be scoring four tries. What a game this was. England were good, much better under Steve Borthwick than they were under Eddie Jones, but Scotland were just better. In the key moments in a tight match, Scotland had the X-Factor in the shape of Duhan van der Merve. His first try was nothing short of sensational, showing pace, power and evasion to rip through England.
Even the English fans around me in Twickenham stood and applauded. It was that good. The try winning score was almost as good but was much more of a team try with some brilliant passing from Finn Russell, as you would expect, and Fraser Brown and Ritchie Gray, which you may not have expected. It was brilliant execution and showed Scotland’s ambition, ability and desire to play with ball in hand at it’s very best. This was Scotland’s best, most rounded and consistent performance under Gregor Townsend and it was a privilege to witness it first-hand.
In the final game, France scraped a win in Rome over Italy but they got a real scare and were hanging on for victory at the end. Italy finished last year’s Six Nations with a win in Cardiff, they backed that up with a win over Australia in November and on Sunday they looked like a proper team who caused the reigning Grand Slam Champions France all sorts of problems. Their defence was good, it needed to be as France started the game very well, but it was in attack that I saw huge improvement.
Italy had real shape, organisation and ability which challenged France in a way that not many people expected. They will cause other teams lots of issues in this Six Nations if they continue to play like that.
It was three away wins to start the Six Nations, which is unusual and we go again in a few days with another three cracking games. The best two teams in the world, Ireland and France play in Dublin, Scotland host their bogey team Wales in Edinburgh and Italy go to London to see if their progress can continue against England on Sunday. My predictions will be that, in contrast to the weekend just gone, that there will be three home wins in round 2 of the Guinness Six Nations.