The RBS Six Nations has been decided on week 4 of the championship. England have won for the first time since 2011 after Scotland beat France on Sunday. Here’s my observations from the weekend’s action:
1. A tale of two captains
The appointment of Dylan Hartley as the new captain of England last month seemed to ruffle a few feathers considering his disciplinary record that has seen him miss two World Cups and a Lions tour in the process. Many saw Eddie Jones’ decision as a huge gamble and he even said that he was “hoping and praying” that his decision did not backfire. So far it hasn’t and with a championship to boot it seems successful.
Hartley has gone about his business in the most proficient way, by producing on the pitch and gradually gaining the respect from his detractors. His predecessor Chris Robshaw was one of the scapegoats for England’s disastrous World Cup campaign, with many pundits believing that the Harlequins flanker will be left out of the squad for the upcoming championship. However Jones decided to retain Robshaw and has been reaping the rewards in the process, as the ex-captain has been playing his best international rugby in the past 12 months in an understated fashion.
Jones said of Robshaw: “To come back and play such a pivotal role in the resurrection of the team, I think it is just outstanding.” He added “to be splashed on the papers, basically the villain of English Rugby, and to have to endure the captaincy debate, which I didn’t help but was necessary.”
2. Itoje’s stock is rising
Maro Itoje is swiftly becoming the most talked about player in the rugby world after another dominant performance in what was only his third cap (second start) for the red rose of England. He was deservedly named man of the match in England’s defeat of Wales. His all-action play was that of a seasoned pro, not of a 21 year-old rookie. I just hope for his sake that we don’t hype him up too much and put pressure on him as we have a tendency to do that too often to our young athletes.
3. Hogg instrumental to Scotland’s success
Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg was yet again a key component to a Scottish victory as he scored and superbly set up Tim Visser with a flick pass that sealed the victory for the Scots. The 23-year old is bringing together an excellent highlight reel for this championship as he also scored 3 points with a penalty kick from Scotland’s half. He is surely a contender for the player of the tournament as he is one of the main factors for a resurgent Scotland team who beat France for the first time in 10 years.
4. Cuthbert’s confidence is at rock bottom
Alex Cuthbert has been the target of social media trolls for a while for his performances and his display against England may have intensified it with a beleaguered showing for Wales. The Cardiff Blues wing missed tackles on numerous occasions and seems bereft of the form and confidence that saw him play for the Lions in 2013.
5. Ireland finally put in an attacking masterclass
Ireland finally won as they obliterated the Italians with a 58-15 onslaught. Having been rather subdued in their performances, the Irish broke their record and scored nine tries against the sorry Azzurri who had no answer for the constant wave of attacks from the boys in green. Andrew Trimble, who missed out on the World Cup seemed like a man possessed with his darting runs that replicated his 2014 form that saw him named Irish player of the year as he scored the opening try of the game. They’ll hope to put in a similar performance as they close out their championship against Scotland in Dublin on Saturday.