The RBS Six Nations was in full flow over the weekend as we came closer to predicting who the contenders and pretenders were. Here are my observations:
1. Scotland showed great attacking instincts
The Scots aren’t exactly renowned for playing an attractive brand of rugby but seemed to showcase this in an impressive 36-20 win over Italy. Albeit against one of the weaker nations in the Italians, Scotland’s backline was on fire with neat intricate moves that Italy could not defend against. The most important facet of this performance was that they were also clinical and finished most of their attacks with aplomb. The ever impressive Stuart Hogg was the star of the show as he assisted on two tries and eventually broke Scotland’s nine game losing streak in the championship.
2. France lacking the X-factor
France lost their first game of the championship against Wales on Friday to a scoreline of 19-10. The result flattered France as they were disappointing once again. You could even argue that they haven’t been the same since the 2011 World Cup Final, when they lost narrowly to the All Blacks. Les Bleus are esteemed for their Gallic flair and creativeness with players such as Serge Blanco and Philippe Sella galloping past defences with style. With the excellent Wesley Fofana sidelined and Gael Fickou still a work in progress, France don’t seem to have that “Je ne sais quoi” that when on form no other team can match.
3. Billy Vunipola has potential to be a world beater
Yes, I’ve finally jumped on the Billy Vunipola bandwagon. Although I’ve always been a fan, I was quite reluctant to laud praise on him consistently. Along with his cousin Taulupe Faletau they have been the standout no.8 performers of the championship. The Ireland defence couldn’t find an answer to the younger Vunipola’s explosive ball-carrying, he was duly named man of the match in the process as he had the most defenders beaten (10) over the weekend. You can’t deny the influence that head coach Eddie Jones has already had on Vunipola. He said of his coach “Eddie has given me that freedom and that is something I thrive on, getting the ball in my hands early, trying to make things happen, also in defence trying to smash people.”
4. Gareth Davies continues to shine under the spotlight
The Wales scrum-half once again put in a stellar display. He is becoming known for his electric breaks from the scrum. One moment springs to mind as he broke from the scrum and created an excellent platform for the Welsh to attack from, however he elected to kick instead of passing to fly-half Dan Biggar, which seemed the more easier option as the French managed to nullify the threat in the process. Having broken English hearts in the World Cup, Davies’ stock seems to be rising and this performance was no different from the others.
5. England’s ill-discipline could prove costly
Although there’s a new regime for England, the indiscipline doesn’t look a thing of the past as James Haskell and Danny Care were both sin-binned in the win over Ireland. Full-back Mike Brown was also lucky just to be penalised for his stamp on Conor Murray (could still be cited for his actions). The ill-discipline was a feature of Stuart Lancaster’s reign and was a regular occurrence in England’s shambolic World Cup campaign. Head Coach Eddie Jones knows that England will have to improve their discipline or it will be sayonara to another grand slam attempt.